‘Keanu’ and Critical Confusion

Keanu, which feels like a feature version of the sketch show which shares its stars, Key & Peele, has received consistently positive but heavily caveated criticism. Film writers and podcasters praise the eponymous kitten and, of course, Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele, the improv comics cum sketch show virtuosos cum movie stars. Those critics, even those usually offering unique points of view and great insight, have also formed a chorus working their way through a medley of “too long” and “thin plot” and “stumbling a little from sketch to feature,” making most reviews of Keanu mixed by definition but largely positively in tone. This reluctance to condemn the film’s supposed shortcomings speaks volumes about the good will Peele, Key, and their collaborators—such as K&P veteran director Peter Atencio—have engendered through their previous work and the recognized achievements of Keanu. But the reluctance also points to the less obvious ways this film, so familiar on the surface, operates which makes how we process and discuss the film challenging but rewarding.

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