Do you have to be a cat lover or be a fan of Comedy Central’s Key & Peele to enjoy Keanu? Absolutely not. Even those who believe dogs rule and cats drool will get a kick out of this R-rated comedy that centers around the rescue of an adorable spiky-furred kitten. Directed by Peter Atencio, director of 50+ episodes of Key & Peele, Keanu starring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele doesn’t quite live up to the expectations set by the film’s trailers, but close is good enough in this case.
We meet Keanu the kitten in the middle of a shoot-out between rival drug gangs. The warehouse ends up looking like a slaughterhouse by the time the last bullet’s fired, but fortunately for our furry hero the two gangsters left standing have a soft spot for squeaky-voiced kittens. Keanu escapes the shoot-out intact, wanders the streets and ultimately ends up at the door of Rell (Peele) who’s depressed – and stoned – after being dumped by his girlfriend. Rell falls madly in love with the kitty he names Keanu, forming an immediate, even slightly unhealthy, attachment to his new furry family member.
Rell’s obsession with Keanu takes a bizarre turn when after spending the evening at the movies with his cousin Clarence (Key), they return home to find his place ransacked and Keanu missing. The search for Keanu takes Rell and Clarence to a strip joint that’s the headquarters of the 17th Street Blips (a gang made up of former Bloods and Crips). Rell and Clarence are forced into masquerading as cold-blooded gangstas in order to rescue Keanu who’s now been adopted by Blips leader, Cheddar (Method Man). Quickly coming up with new names – Techtonic and Shark Tank – and new backstories, the suburbanites are so over-their-heads that Keanu’s not the only one in danger of becoming a gang-related crime statistic.
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are immensely likable and in their first feature film as the leads, they don’t just stick with what their fans already appreciate and expect – comedy riffs on current events, race, and pop culture – but instead go into full-on action hero mode. Key and Peele have an incredible knack at knowing just how far to push a joke and how long they can continue to poke and prod one target before they need to move on. It doesn’t hurt that they’re working alongside one of the cutest kittens ever. I’m a diehard dog person and I left the theater wanting to adopt a meowing ball of fur.
Keanu’s one of the best buddy comedies to come along in years, and even Keanu’s namesake, Keanu Reeves, realized this film’s a cut above, agreeing to lend his voice to a brief but memorable scene after seeing the trailer. Keanu even makes George Michael and Wham! seem cool again, and Will Forte in cornrows is one of those things you have to see to believe. For their first comedy movie as headliners, Keanu sets the bar high. Will they be able to top it with their second film? I’m sure these two have already moved on to something original and equally as entertaining, but I do have a Corgi they can borrow if they want to stick with the animal theme.
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language throughout, drug use and sexuality/nudity
Running Time: 98 minutes