Keanu Reeves is everywhere, up to and including the Oscars this weekend. It should come as no surprise, then, that Keanu is in the new SpongeBob movie, Sponge on the Run. Even less surprising should be the news that Keanu is playing a piece of mystical tumbleweed. I mean, of course he is. What else would Keanu Reeves be doing in a SpongeBob movie except playing a piece of mystical tumbleweed? He has voiced wise kittens and traumatized Canadian stunt-toys, mystical tumbleweed is the next logical step. Please name me another star of Keanu’s caliber who would do even ONE of the utterly random cameos he has done, let alone ALL of the random cameos he has done.
Keanu is unutterably, timelessly cool. He’s been cool in the movies for thirty years. He has played some of the most indelibly cool characters on screen, from Neo to John Wick. And yet, Keanu is also a huge goofball. He will voice a wise kitten in a goofy action spoof, he will give soulful life to a regretful toy, he will be the face of your mystical tumbleweed, he will parody his own internet image and be the butt of the joke and somehow, still, be the coolest guy on screen. Have we ever considered that the secret to Keanu’s transcendent cool is that he is, himself, so uncool? I pondered once that he might be a closet dork, and I have come to believe that is the key to the Keanu enigma. He has outlasted almost every other major movie star of his generation, untouched by time and the vagaries of audience affection.
As Keanu enters his fourth decade of Movie Stardom, he is more popular and beloved than ever, and a big part of his appeal is that he is both John Wick and the guy enjoying his ice cream. His on-screen appeal is tied up in his mysterious persona, a pervasive sense of sadness in his characters, and his combination of classic masculine signifiers and almost androgynous beauty. But his off-screen appeal is all about the surprise appearances and unabashed enthusiasm he has for, seemingly, everything. Keanu endures because he is John Wick AND the mystical tumbleweed in a SpongeBob movie. You can’t separate them. One of the greatest action heroes in cinematic history is also the dork who keeps showing up in goofy cameos. I don’t even need to say, “Never change, Keanu,” because he will not change. He’s been this guy for thirty years, and he will, hopefully, be this guy for thirty more.