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When Rell’s beloved kitten, Keanu, is catnapped, the hopelessly straight-laced pair must impersonate ruthless killers in order to infiltrate a street gang and retrieve the purloined feline. But the incredibly adorable kitten becomes so coveted that the fight over his custody creates a gang war, forcing our two unwitting heroes to take the law into their own hands. (From WB’s official synopsis)

 Keanu
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s Key & Peele was the sketch show for people like me, who don’t normally enjoy sketch shows. Their unique perspectives, unpredictable punchlines, and eclectic content rivaled the likes of other genre-transcendent acts, like Mr. Show, Upright Citizens Brigade, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but their cinematic literacy and outrageous production values were what really set them apart. Considering the decent track record of popular sketch acts making the jump to narrative-driven television and feature film, I assumed that Key & Peele’s movie debut, entitled Keanu after the star of Chad Stahelski & David Leitch’s John Wick (a movie the writer/stars swear only has coincidental similarities to their film) would be a slam dunk. The fact that it wasn’t going to be based on a pre-existing skit – something we’ll call Saturday Night Live syndrome – had solidified my confidence. Unfortunately, Keanu is the victim of high hopes. Separated from the Key & Peele series, it is barely moderately amusing, which isn’t really more than I expect from most mainstream comedies, to be honest. However, with the series in mind, it is an almost unmitigated failure.

The duo lean heavily on excessive, one-note jokes about their nerdy suburbanite personalities jibbing with urban crime tropes, boringly obvious spoofs of existing movies, and sub- Cheech & Chong drug humour, all without more than a hint of that patented Key & Peele weirdness and unpredictability. The characters are purposefully bland, as many of the duo’s sketch characters tend to be, but there’s no ‘hook,’ no surprise – just ordinary movie stuff, like romantic tension, friendships in crisis, and a third act action finale. There is a solid, through-line plot that fills the feature runtime, which seems like the more sophisticated choice for a movie debut, but it appears to have been built on the skeleton of a Microsoft Word screenplay template. Even the surrealistic drug trip/spiritual journey sequence is nestled right at the end of the second act, like a studio mandate. What we have here is a feature-length “white people drive like this/black people drive like this” joke that drones on and on for what should be a wistful 99 minutes. Most disappointing of all, I don’t think the filmmakers are even aware of how predictable they’re being. In relation to the Key & Peele series, Keanu isn’t particularly cinematic-looking. Director Peter Atencio developed a propensity for aping established styles while working on the show, but his lack of feature experience is evident in the film’s made-for-TV, faux-theatrical imagery. It’s a handsome enough production, I guess, one that successfully apes the feel of other movies without ever really expressing a creative voice of his own.

 Keanu

Video


Keanu sort of looks like an extended TV sketch. so it is not surprising to learn that it was shot using Arri Alexa XT digital HD cameras. Atencio and cinematographer Jas Shelton (who has slightly more feature film experience than his director) embrace the format’s low-light abilities in order to shoot in a lot of super dark, faux-noir-friendly images. These sequences are a bit noisy around the corners, but the 1080p, 2.35:1 picture is sharp enough to reveal fine textures and small highlights. Daylight scenes are tighter, despite a lot of shallow focus, frame-distorting anamorphic lenses, and colour grading. The purposeful smoothness and pseudo-brown overcast still create noise issues (I’m not including those moments borrowed from George Michael’s TV-resolution “Faith” music video), but the soft edges and gradations are never block. The generally disaturated/homogenized palette is spiked with pastel hues to represent the lameness of the suburban world and neon to represent the more vulgar and dangerous criminal world. These punchy elements are strong and vivid, specifically when set up against the harsh black backdrops.

Audio


Keanu is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The sound designers alternate between simple, clean mundanity (i.e. Clarence and Rell’s everyday life) and the over-the-top action universe (i.e. all of the stuff that the movie is spoofing). Basic environmental ambience is subtly peppered into the side and rear speakers, but the real standout movement relates to the very aggressive action scenes. The most elaborate shootouts and car chases more or less match the aural power of a ‘real’ action movies. Composer team Steve Jablonsky & Nathan Whitehead supply a nice mix of mock-epic symphonic score and whimsical mood music that is widely represented throughout the stereo spread. Appropriate hip-hop, pop, and George Michael tunes are also included and they are really loud. I found myself reaching for the remote to turn the receiver down when the heavy LFE started to vibrate the walls.

 Keanu

Extras


  • Keanu: My First Movie (3:05, HD) – An extra brief EPK gag based around the kitten performer.
  • Eight deleted/extended scenes (15:13, HD)
  • Gag reel (5:39, HD)


Overall


I had heard mostly bad things about Keanu, but I wasn’t prepared for how big of a disappointment it actually is. It’s a formulaic action comedy from two of the most savvy guys in television comedy. There are maybe a dozen chuckles here and there, but not a single belly-laugh. Warner Bros. Blu-ray has minor noise issues, its DTS-HD MA soundtrack is top-notch, and it features has a couple of amusing extras.

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 Keanu

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* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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