Keanu (USA, 2016)

mv5bmtuwoda0nzqxml5bml5banbnxkftztgwnzuymjy3ode-_v1_uy1200_cr9006301200_al_Directed by: Peter Atencio. After seeing a few sketches of the Key & Peele show on Youtube, as well as this pretty great episode of Hot Ones, as well as this pretty great appearance at the White House, it didn’t take more than a casual understanding of the premise of this movie until I was completely hooked. You got Key and Peele, in a movie about a kitten, and it’s called Keanu. Done. Easy. Why can’t more comedy movies be this straightforward? And I’ve heard some dissenting views about this one—it’s “stupid”, for example—but I’m afraid I have to dig my heels in on this one. Regular readers might have noticed a pattern with me when it comes to modern comedies, which sometimes I check out because I’m feeling open-minded and I want to give some modern comedy a fair shake, and sometimes I’m compelled to watch for professional reasons. The pattern is overwhelmingly the same: modern American comedy is still largely in the swamp of early 2000’s bro-frat-idiot comedy, where the humour is always based in an extremely narrow and unforgivingly normative grid of gender expectations, sexual expectations, beauty expectations, etc, effectively “let’s laugh at (gay/fat/”ugly”) people because they’re (gay/fat/”ugly”).” And the storylines are nearly identical—juvenile high-school idiocy is something to be held onto for dear life, because entering the adult world is “selling out”, and even when the protagonist “grows up” at the end, it’s only a happy ending if the movie establishes the inherent value and wisdom in being a crude, judgmental, superficial, narcissistic asshole, because the movie magic will prove it to be synonymous with childlike wonder and playfulness. And the pattern is pretty consistent: the movies that step outside of that extremely narrow mould of glorifying high school—notably Spy—are ones that I think are actually pretty funny and hilarious, and not based in juvenile, mean-spirited, down-punching. To put it simply, Keanu is a comedy movie, and it features some foolish characters in absurd situations behaving foolishly. If that makes it “dumb”, then guilty as charged. I’d say that Key and Peele do a pretty good job of riffing on and parodying society’s expectations of African American masculinity (for what my white guy eyes can tell), but even without that stuff, this is just a funny movie, in the time-honoured sense of people pretending to be something they’re not, and having the situation get way over their heads. This is the basis for a lot of movies I’m sure, but I can’t think of any examples right now. All I know is, this movie is really funny, and its gender politics, while still very focused on masculinity, don’t bathe in excruciatingly backwards attitudes to women, like a good chunk of modern comedy does. And I know that today, in Trump’s America, there are many people for whom the whole idea that a film’s depiction of sexuality and gender, etc, even have a role to play in how enjoyable it is, all I can do is assure you that I, like you, want only one thing out of a comedy—to laugh. And it’s genuinely very difficult to enjoy a movie that’s based almost exclusively in denigrating other people, especially when 99% of the time, it’s good-looking, utterly conformist, mainstream, upper-middle-class, heterosexual white people denigrating literally everybody who falls outside of that extremely narrow bubble. And a good comedy, like this one, demonstrates that yes, as unbelievable as it may seem, it’s possible to get laughs out of something other than all of that.  I mean, give me a break, a baby kitten in a do-rag!

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One response to “Keanu (USA, 2016)

  1. Pingback: The Nice Guys (USA, 2016) | Offhand Reviews·

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