After a few years on their TV show, the comedy duo Key and Peele come to the big screen with Keanu, a lively kidnapped cat comedy with a high body count.
Part John Wick and part Adventures in Babysitting, the film gives us Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as Clarence and Rell, a couple of wimpy guys trying to get a beloved kitten back from some hardcore gangsters. In order to do so, they masquerade as Shark Tank and Tectonic, two badasses from Allentown who will end your life if you don’t give them their cat back.
That cat first escapes from a drug den when two killers (also played by Key and Peele) murder his owner. He winds up at the doorstep of newly dumped Rell, who gloms onto him as his feline savior. The cat is then kidnapped and winds up back in the hands of gangsters, requiring Rell and Clarence to swing into action.
The title character is, of course, the cat, who has to be the cutest kitten anybody has ever put in a movie. Clad in a doo-rag and jewelry, the multiple cats recruited for the part make this film an absolute necessity for cat lovers, even if you hate Key and Peele. The felines steal every scene they are in.
The movie isn’t the most original piece of work this year. Fish-out-of-water scenarios are a dime a dozen, and much of the humor—Clarence’s obsession with George Michael, Rell’s trouble with women—is based on stuff we’ve seen before.
That said, Key and Peele have a knack for taking familiar scenarios and playing them out to nutty, funny extremes. For example: One of Clarence’s gangsta associates, after a long George Michael listening session, gets a “George Michael is OG” tattoo on his torso. It’s funnier than it sounds.
One of the great things about their comedy is their seemingly innocent slant, followed by large doses of nastiness. Not to give too much away, but the film has a rather shocking violence factor, and it’s quite surprising given how innocuous it seems at times. This is by no means a complaint. The film’s best moments are its most shocking ones.
Method Man contributes nicely as Cheddar, the criminal holding Keanu and unwilling to give him up without significant, murderous favors in return. Jason Mitchell, fresh off his stint in Straight Outta Compton, gets big laughs as Bud, one of Cheddar’s henchmen. Tiffany Haddish scores points as Hi-C, perhaps the most badass person in the movie. Her violent tendencies really come to life during a cameo by a famous comedic actress. (I won’t give away the name.)
Will Forte shows up as Rell’s next-door neighbor and pot dealer. Again, the film is dealing in well-worn territory here, with Forte’s character playing a white guy trying to be black. Credit Forte with making some old shtick pretty funny in this movie.
Key and Peele have been kicking around in supporting roles in movies over the last decade or so, but this is the first time they’ve really been able to take the spotlight on the big screen. While it’s not a rousing success, they definitely show promise as a big screen duo.
In John Wick, Keanu Reeves infiltrated the Russian mob after somebody messed with his dog. In Keanu, Key and Peele infiltrate a drug ring to save a cat. The short lesson here is that you don’t mess with a man’s dog or cat.
As good as Key and Peele are in this film, the real star is Keanu and the cats that played him. Also, huge props to the cat wrangler and whoever else managed to pull the performances out of these particular kitties. You’ll believe a kitten can evade rapid gunfire.