KeanucoverGrade: B
Entire family: No way
2016, 100 min., Color
Warner Bros.
Rated R for violence, language throughout, drug use and sexuality/nudity
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
Bonus features: C-
Trailer
Amazon link

It’s rare when Family Home Theater reviews R-rated movies, but the line between PG-13 and R movies has been blurring as of late. And nothing blurs the line more than a cute little kitty.

Keanu (2016) is a cat-lover’s movie, an action comedy that will appeal to anyone who has dressed a pet in an elaborate costume and taken pictures. In terms of its comedic structure and spirit, Keanu is a lot like the PG-13-rated Date Night, in which Steve Carell and Tina Fey were a boring couple whose night started to fall like a string of dominoes after they assumed the identity of another couple in order to get a table at a swanky restaurant, and it got them involved with all sorts of unsavory characters. Only here, the premise is that a kitty like Keanu is so darned cute that people—ruthless people—will do anything to keep him or get him back. In other words, Keanu is more like Date Night meets the Coen Brothers. It’s for families with high school students who like buddy cop flicks and crime capers.

The violence is mostly comic, the drug use isn’t much different from what you typically see in a PG-13 movie like Date Night, and there’s one very brief background moment of female frontal nudity—which also has been getting by the PG-13 censors. The one big difference is in the language. F-bombs and “mother” F variations are almost as common as the liberal use of the “n” word. But savvy parents know that high school students already hear it all on a daily basis.

keanuscreen1Keanu is the brainchild of MADtv alums Key & Peele, whose Comedy Central sketches have been a favorite of teens and twenty-somethings. The comic duo plays a pair of cousins who are about as streetwise as the nerdiest black characters TV sitcoms have given us over the years.

Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) is so straight-laced that he’s more at home in the suburbs than the streets and hasn’t learned how to let his hair down. When his wife and daughter go out of town on a trip with another family, he checks up on his cousin, Rell (Jordan Peele), whose girlfriend just dumped him. But fate intervenes. A cute kitty that Rell names Keanu turns up on his doorstep, and in no time at all the little guy becomes the focus of his life. Rell turns the house into a cat “pad” and spends all his time shooting a Keanu calendar in which the cat is shown in different movie scenes. Cute? You bet. And all that cuteness is a terrific counterweight to the tongue-in-cheek unsavory elements.

Keanuscreen2When Rell’s apartment is trashed and Keanu turns up missing, Rell’s marijuana-dealing neighbor (Will Forte) tells him that a local gang called the 17th St. Blips might have been responsible. Once Rell convinces his cousin to impersonate street toughs “Tectonic” and “Shark Tank” and enter that world of gangs, gangsters, drug dealers, and killers, the comic dominoes start to fall.

Key & Peele are, in fact, hilarious as two would-be bad asses, and I wouldn’t be the first critic to comment on how especially funny it was to see a cross-cut scene of Clarence sitting in a getaway car outside a mansion teaching a carload of gangstas to love and sing along with George Michael while Rell was inside with a tough gangsta gal named Hi-C (Tiffany Haddish) playing a life-or-death game of Truth or Dare with Anna Faris and her houseguests.

Keanu won’t be for everyone, and it’s definitely only for families with children in high school who can handle the sometimes bloody comic violence and non-stop language. But it’s a funny buddy crime comedy with a kitty that constantly threatens to upstage everyone—no matter how bad-ass they are.

Language: F-words, mother-f variations, and liberal use of the “n” word and street language throughout
Sex: One strip-club scene shows background frontal nudity for a very brief moment
Violence: Mostly comic, including the bloody stuff; people are shot at point blank range and there are threats of cutting off fingers
Adult situations: Drug use and mention throughout, with drug dealers at the center of the plot
Takeaway: The only thing funnier than watching white people try to act like streetwise blacks is watching two nerdy blacks attempt it

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