Sun. Feb 5th, 2023
Nerdy cousins ​​Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) and Rell (Jordan Peele) try to act like gangbangers to save Keanu, the supernaturally cute kitten.

Nerdy cousins ​​Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) and Rell (Jordan Peele) try to act like gangbangers to save Keanu, the supernaturally cute kitten.

Warner Bros.

There’s an entire subgenre of nerd comedy big bang theory that’s about laughing at nerds, making fun of them for being on the spectrum, being asexual, or both. But now, thanks to comedians like Key & Peele, John Oliver and writer/director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the dead), there’s another kind of nerd comedy – a great kind, that we laugh about of the nerds, and those nerds have personalities that go beyond old stereotypes. Key & Peele’s first feature film, Keanu, is a perfect example of this kind of comedy. It’s not flawless, but it will crack you up, just like a good internet meme.

Although the sketch comedy show Key & Peele aired on Comedy Central, it found an audience on YouTube. There, clips from the show were viewed millions of times and popularized by the comedians’ sharp mix of bland pop culture references and satirical take on racial weirdness in America. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are both biracial, and their resulting insider/outsider experiences are often fodder for their sketches – fueling many of the gags in Keanu, at. The premise of the movie, like many of the bits on their show, is that it’s two middle-class nerds talking like white people (or, as Key says to Peele in Keanu“You sound like John Ritter always.”) And this can get tricky for all sorts of reasons.

In Keanu, the problem is that movie-loving stoner Rell (Peele) must drag his shaky cousin Clarence (Key) into a gang war in LA to save his kitten (the eponymous Keanu). Turns out all the people who couldn’t make it to the Crips and the Bloods have formed a new gang, the Blips. And their leader, Cheddar, has kidnapped Keanu. Why? It’s a long one rough dog fluffy kitty story about territory wars, two creepy gang ninjas from Allentown and a new breed of super drug called Holy Shit. To get the kitten back, Rell and Clarence infiltrate the Blips by posing as mobsters, dropping N-bombs, and doing their best to play ghetto in chinos and pastel shirts.

Clarence and Rell really do become action heroes.
Enlarge / Clarence and Rell really do become action heroes.

Warner Bros

As we weave between insane gunfights and crazy comments on George Michael, Keanu becomes a hilarious mish-mash of every horrifying thriller where Liam Neeson (or some Neeson-esque type) has to single-handedly get his wife/child/vulnerable person back from the psychotic villainous terrorist cult gang. Except Rell wants his cat, not his kid. And the bad guys are led by a dude who also likes cats – and (randomly) 90s video games. Everyone in the movie has a little nerd in them.

While there are definitely some dragging routines and some inexplicable bullshit between Rell and a cute gangbanger named Hi-C (Tiffany Haddish), Keanu will keep you laughing. And damn, I really cared about the cat. Because he’s freakishly cute and wears a little rag and a giant gold chain, just like a lolcat come to life. And here’s a spoiler I don’t think you’ll mind knowing: no one hurts Keanu, because all the gangbangers love him.

oh hi i'm cute.

oh hi i’m cute.

Warner Bros.

What’s really great about it Keanu is that it rises above an action thriller version of the parody franchise Scary Movie. Key & Peele have basically made an action movie in their own right, except it stars a kitten and some black nerds who are clumsy with stereotypes. This, more than anything, is what brands Keanu as a film heavily influenced by internet culture. Obviously, I don’t need to explain why cute kittens are an internet thing. Perhaps less obvious is the fact that social media has given black and brown nerds a place where they can be heard. I don’t mean that in a strictly political sense. Online we see different people doing all kinds of things, including making jokes that a decade ago would have been limited to small comedy clubs in big cities. Partly thanks to the internet, racial satire is a lot more complicated than it was when Richard Pryor did stand-up in the 1970s.

In Keanu, we get a thick mix of nerd comedy and racial satire that strangely work just as well together as kittens and gangsters. Check it out – you’ll see!

By akfire1

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