Friday, April 29, 2016
Pimp My Kitty?
By Tinsel & Tine Contributor Terri L. Heard
In the aftermath of my participation in a roundtable interview with “Key & Peele” comedian Jordan Peele and legendary Wu-Tang Clan member Method Man, I can’t help but think that “Pimp My Kitty” should have been the title of their action comedy film KEANU which opened Friday, April 29th nationwide. “Keanu” is Peele’s eagerly awaited big screen debut with comedy partner Keegan-Michael Key. Key and Peele star as cousins Rell, a married corporate trainer, and Clarence, a recently dumped and depressed photographer, respectively. When Keanu turns up on his doorstep, Clarence emerges from his funk only to come crashing back to earth when his kitten is cat-napped. But Clarence refuses to take this latest loss lying down. So, just (and not coincidentally) like the Keanu Reeves character in the film “John Wick,” the cousins set off to recover the cat. In the process, the two are forced to shed their Urkel personas and the shelter of suburbia to trek into gritty, urban gangland territory and hunt down Cheddar (Method Man), the drug dealer who stole Keanu.
Le Chat – a Brewerytown cat adoption agency (with cats decked out in gold chains for the occasion). Sadly, scheduling conflicts scotched Key’s presence. During our interview, Method Man holds up one of the PR-supplied packets. It contains a tasty little shortbread cookie cheekily printed with the image of his silver tabby co-star decked out in black tee-shirt, matching doo-rag and gold chain. “I mean look at this kitten, you know?” he says. “He looks like, Justin, fuckin’ Bieber. Am I lyin’?” With absolutely no apologies to Bieber, we all – a half a dozen reporters – bust out laughing. “In a very, very good way,” adds Jordan Peele, ever the polite performer and newly minted film star sitting beside him. Meth ain’t having it. “Ha! He’s [the cat] more gangsta than Justin Bieber.” The laughter doesn’t stop.
Well…he WASN’T lying. “Keanu” might be just under a foot tall, but I’m betting he could totally take Bieber in a fight. Easy. The question of who’s the most gangsta of them all is the dippy premise around which “Keanu” spins.
The OTHER N-word...
as these self-confessed Nerds - Key and Peele, first broke through thanks to their topical comedy skits that mined the absurd contradictions inherent in cultural motifs – particularly the dippy contradictions contained within hip hop and prevailing notions of Black masculinity. The pair zeroed in on those contradictions and stomped on them until they cracked and spewed comedy gold. One of their best skits features the two of them as tame, suburban husbands boasting to each other how they’re actually such genuine G’s that they call their wives the b-word to their faces. Of course they’re so afraid of their wives overhearing them that they keep running further and further away from home even just to voice that boast – until they wind up at the top of a couple of trees shouting to each other across the distance.
Now the two have taken their comedy act to the big screen. But does the duo’s transition from comedy sketch stretch enough to fit a big screen narrative without tearing? Peele says it was a challenge he and Key were ready for. “The difference of course at this point,” he says, “is you have to sustain a story. So you can’t just sell out the comedy and expect to be able to go back and have people care (about) what you’re doing. You have to ground it. You have to give it heart. And so ‘Keanu’ takes us through on this journey.” The idea of using a cat appealed them because of the juxtaposition. “We took the cutest thing in the world and we put it in a crazy situation,” says Peele. “Fish out of water,” Method Man adds.
Boyz 2 Men...
“This movie was about putting us in that over the top violent world and seeing what the everyday guy would do,” Peele continues. In the process, the cousins’ quest to find Keanu is not just a cat rescue but a rite of passage bromance for two emasculated man children. Key’s character is a perpetually cheery and seemingly hen-pecked by his wife (Nia Long). Peele’s character starts out pining for a woman who no longer wants him. By journey’s end, both men are standing on firmer, grittier ground – but not without a lot of hilarity along the way. The duo romps their way through an increasingly improbable narrative, gleefully celebrating and sending up stereotypes about masculinity, hip hop, Blackness and that other N-word. As two nerds forced to navigate gangland in order to rescue their tabby, Clarence and Rell have to reach deep within to find their inner, original N-word just to avoid getting shot. “It’s all about duality,” says Peele. “I think every person has two individuals living inside of them. There’s the warrior and then they’ve got the artist. Keegan and I both, we have the artist. We’ve got that turned up to like 10.” How do they find their warrior spirit? “Just by being willing to do anything to push buttons in our comedy,” he explains.
And their effort mostly works. Watching Rell explain the glories of George Michael’s music to his gangsta cohorts while on lookout duty for a drug deal will leave you laughing so hard you’ll probably spit out your soda. True there are some places where the jokes don’t land or the scene lasts too long but there also some laugh out loud funny sequences that just have to be seen to be believed. It’s worth the price of a ticket.
T & T's LAMB (movie bloggers association) Score:3.75 outta 5
Terri Heard has been a writer and editor for TV Guide, for whom she’s interviewed Chris Rock, Chaka Khan, Christina Aguilera and more. Based in Philadelphia, she’s currently working on her first novel, Dirty Lens and has started her own TLHeardblog. Terri is also lending her writing and web skills to her brother-in-law filmmaker Floyd Marshall, organizer of the upcoming Philadelphia Independent Film Awards (click for T&T post).
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