SXSW 2016 Movie Review: KEANU – Work in Progress Screening
It’s not typical of a movie review to be written of a work in progress cut of a film, and it’s even less typical of a studio publicist to insist upon a review of said work in progress cut. Well, comedy legends Key and Peele are not your typical filmmakers and their debut feature film together, Keanu, is far from your typical film. The trailer for Keanu dropped a few months ago with no hint of a warning that a movie with a premise this ridiculous, but the fanfare was immediate and people began clamoring for this movie as soon as they could possibly see it.
Rell (Jordan Peele) is in a distraught place when his girlfriend leaves him, and his best friend Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) takes it upon himself to try to pick his friend. Unbeknownst to Clarence, before he arrives, Rell has already found solace in a tiny kitten that made its way to his home that he names Keanu. Immediately Rell and Keanu are inseparable, but one night Rell’s place is broken into and Keanu has gone missing. From there, Clarence and Rell embark on a ridiculous quest to try to find the world’s most adorable kitten.
The trailer makes this movie seem like it’s a one note parody of John Wick, and one that didn’t seem like it could sustain momentum for longer than a great Key and Peele sketch. The trailer itself seemed like it could have been a stand alone sketch and it would have been the sort of thing we’d all say “They should really make that movie!” but in reality know that’d be a dumb idea.
Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Where Keanu succeeds as a film is placing Key and Peele in situations where their characters have to take different personas and it becomes a performance piece by them. It’s actually pretty far from a John Wick parody and it goes in places you don’t expect and because of that, comedically this keeps delivering and then it peppers in the adorableness when it needs to but no joke or premise ever gets really old.
Expectations do play a role in shaping how you might feel about the movie. Many in the SXSW audience with the highest expectations were hoping for more of the one note that the trailer lead on about, but tempered exceptions for most others helped shape the mindset of appreciating the different things the movie was throwing at us. As far as being a work in progress version of the film, it’s hard to imagine what needs to be cut, nothing really does, but it could use a couple of minutes of tightening up in some places. Will Forte in particular isn’t as funny as clearly everyone on set thought his character was. Make no mistake though, the true star of the show is Keanu, and that adorable little feline will have hearts fluttering and even the coldest heart couldn’t help but warm up to the little guy.