A great comedy is probably my favorite type of film to watch because it not only puts you in a good mood, but if it truly is a great comedy you are able to share a laugh outside of the theater with others as you reference lines from it among your friends. With that being said, I think the comedy genre produces the lowest quality films, as a majority of the films made today in this genre are not the high quality comedies that I was referencing earlier. No, most of the comedy films released today are written very poorly with cheap humor that you forget as soon as you walk out of the theater and when you try to go and see the film again to remember what made you laugh, you begin to question why you found these jokes funny the first time. Due to these reasons, when I initially heard of what is essentially the Key and Peele film, Keanu, I was like a cat on the fence. On one hand the Key and Peele television show has offered some very memorable skits and remained consistently high quality for five seasons fulfilling the requirements of a great comedy show. But, on the other hand, how well could this comedy duo transition to the silver screen? Luckily, I got invited to an early screening of the film this week to get my questions answered. While I must say Keanu is not a great comedy, Key and Peele were able to adapt their comedic style to film and make a pretty good comedy with only slightly cliché plot points.
The film’s plot is a typical fish out of water story where Key’s character, a submissive, suburban, straight laced, family man, and Peele’s character, a loser who lost his girlfriend and sits around his house smoking pot all day, must pretend to be murderous gangsters in order to get back Peele’s beloved kitten, Keanu, back from a local gang. In terms of story and character, the film is not original in any sense. Every character is just a stereotype taken to the extreme for comedic effect and to make sure that the audience clearly understands where each character stands in order for the comedic situations to land properly. In terms of plot, as previously mentioned the film, is nothing more than a fish out of water story where the characters go through some event that they have no business being in and by the end they learn a little bit more about themselves and how they should really be living their life. Though, one must remember that Keanu is only a comedy and the audience is not necessarily there to see some original thought provoking story. Really the audience only wants to be able to have a good time. To be quite honest, for the most part when watching the film one does not really pick up on, or care that the characters are just exaggerated stereotypes. In fact, there were not any points in the film where the representation of the film’s characters took me out of the film. However, at some moments within the film, the trite plot points the story hits did discredit the film for me in some sense. This occurred later in the film when Key’s character starts to emphasize and like the new gangster world he lives in, while Peele still vehemently rejects it causing a slight rift between the two friends. Luckily, this rift only lasts for the duration of a scene and does not become the center plot for the remainder of the film as that would have quickly made one become bored with the film as this theme has been explored at length in other films and comedies for that matter as recently as in 21 Jump Street.
Previously, I mentioned my curiosity for how Key and Peele would be able to adapt their comedy to the theatrical format and away from the television sketch shows that they became famous for and as it turns out they dealt with the problem by just ignoring it. For those not familiar with the show Key and Peele, it is basically your traditional sketch show where the two hosts, Key and Peele, either do one off sketches or a new sketch with characters from a previous sketch. Obviously, this format would not work for a film as the changing of characters every scene would cause the audience to lose focus. However, the actual writers of Keanu, Jordan Peele and Alex Rubens were still able to use the sketch framework and weave together multiple sketches to build a cohesive film. If you look at each scene within the film each one could almost be its own stand alone sketch where in the first few moments of the scene a situation is introduced while the rest of the scene is just spent exploring the situation. If this structure was more easily observed in the film, it would get very tiring, however the writers were able to keep this structure of the film to a minimum and as a result it is not really apparent to the audience that this is what is going on. The reason for this is because by just filling the film with stereotypical characters the audience is able to already build a backstory for the characters that they are watching allowing the writers to skip over exposition since the audience already knows who the characters are. In addition, in the event that the writers do have to provide some exposition on the characters, they are able to do so by incorporating this information with jokes so the moments where exposition exists the audience just sees it as more jokes and not building of story. As a result, Keanu is a very smartly written film as it carefully allows the films stars to lean on the same attributes that have made their career without the audience feeling as if they are just watching another episode of Key and Peele.
As a result, Keanu is a good example of what more comedies should strive to be like. While it was not one of the best comedies, it was also not one where I walked out and instantly could not remember anything about it. At times it was only a step or two away from becoming a complete rehash of previously seen comedies, but the writers of the film clearly demonstrated that they understood why Key and Peele have been so successful in their comedy career and used these elements to craft a film that allowed them to play up their strengthens. If you have nothing to do next weekend when Keanu is released, go check out the film as you won’t regret it if you do or do not for that matter, as Celluloid Cinema only awards the film 2 out of 5 Reels for at the end of the day it is just an average comedy film.
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