With over 35 years and multiple roles in classic films, Keanu Reeves has become one of Hollywood’s most enduring icons. Once dismissed as incredibly easy, it has stood the test of time and featured a range that would surprise its early reviewers, from Bill and Ted to the ongoing Matrix and John Wick franchises, plenty of high-profile favorites to choose from.
But part of his formula was to take on big and small roles and find positions that suited him, rather than constantly being the headliner. This has earned him accolades in films like As Good as It Gets, which starred Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. It has helped cement his reputation as a trusted actor and a star.
This trend has given him a casting role in his most successful film to date, in which he also plays a supporting role. It was Toy Story 4 that won a mascot in its sensitive Evel Knievel clone that defined its central dilemma. Not only was the film Reeves nowhere near, but its presence helped bring it to an all-time high: a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and sympathizing with the “Universal Acclamation” rating for their rating of 84 Metacritic.
The film itself maintained the stellar reputation of the previous three Toy Story films seemingly effortlessly. Neighborhoods are typically associated with more extensive franchises like the Harry Potter films or, much more generally, the sad final chapter of a franchise that extends well beyond its creative peak.
Toy Story 4 performed another magical act, expanding its world of sensory toys in a completely unexpected direction while also battling what previous films had called taboo. Once believed to be the worst fate of all the main characters, the lost toys are revealed to lead a different, more self-sufficient lifestyle.
Reeves’ character, Duke Kaboom, embodies this idea. It’s a variation on a Knievel toy from the 1970s, with a ramp that loads the wheels of your motorcycle so you can get around quickly on your own. Kaboom is a Canadian toy that parodies the extravagant patriotic uniforms of the American Knievel, who suffered a prolonged trauma when his owner Réjean called him St. Stephen’s Day Gift. His supposed failure haunts him, even after he is given new life with his abandoned tomatoes. Only finally, when he proves to himself that he was always exactly what he wanted to be, does he put the past to bed.
The role fits Reeves like a glove, with real heart and humanity under the apparent vacuum of a daredevil from a country known for its gentle people. Your pain of rejection is quite normal and easy to spot, despite the exaggerated tragedy that it is for a child to be quickly disappointed in a gift.
Kaboom is crumbling over something beyond his control, an ad that promises far more than the toy could offer, and no matter how ridiculous the circumstances, Reeves is selling the reality of the character’s pain.
The most important thing is that the character fits into his universe without any mood whatsoever. Toy Story films love to combine natural toys like Potato Heads with original concepts like Buzz Lightyear that look real even when they aren’t.
Kaboom is right in the wheelhouse, with a clear inspiration from an existing toy but with a clever twist of its own. Reeves gives him humor, soul, and ultimately a Zen acceptance of the beauty of life, all with his tongue firmly on his cheek.
It’s telling that the Toy Story series has transformed characters like Kaboom into a different nature. Toy Story 4 does this and more with a host of fantastic new characters that don’t waste time on franchise fans like Rex and Jessie the Cowgirl. Reeves’ performance parallels the rest of the cast, who are mainly devoted to the project. At the same time, the universe still seems incomplete without this new character. It’s a demonstration of your skills that is as strong as any of your top vehicles.