Film Review: Keanu

by Chad Liffmann on April 29, 2016

Key & Peele deliver a solid R-rated comedy for cat lovers.

Key and Peele and Kitty

Key and Peele and Kitty

The dynamic comedy duo of Key & Peele make their feature film debut with Keanu, an R-rated comedy about two homely guys masquerading into the criminal world in search of their kidnapped kitten. If you’re familiar with the Key & Peele comedic style, you’re sure to like Keanu for all its racial, crude, and awkward humor. If you’re not familiar with it, you may find yourself laughing at a moment or two and frustrated at others. Luckily, it’s fast-paced enough to get by any failed humor with ease. Keanu is a solid gut-busting debut for Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, who utilize their strengths to bolster a hilariously absurd (and cuddly) premise.

I tried to keep my excitement in check when I saw the first Keanu trailer — ‘well I’m sure the kitten is the best part of the movie’. Actually, the kitten is the best part of the movie, but the chemistry between Key and Peele is a close second. Key brings his ability to go from zero-to-sixty at the drop of a hat, launching any encroaching dull moment into a laugh fest with a barrage of foul-mouthed “gangsta speak.” Peele compliments Key with his impeccable timing and a wide variety of funny stares (awkward, scared, fierce, etc). Peele is more subtle and Key is more loud so their interactions are always well-balanced, and the film doesn’t take long to put us into the thick of their comedy. Keanu’s opening scene is hysterically epic, and minutes later we already feel like we’re in the middle of some of Key & Peele’s best sketches.

The K&P sketch formula is funny and tedious at times. They tend to launch a funny sketch, only to drag it on to the point of frustration, but then keep it going until its funny again. It’s a bold move but pays off more often than not. This formula is utilized throughout the movie — you think a scene is ending, then you think it’s gone too far and is tediously clinging on to life, but then it gets funny again. Keanu doesn’t feel like one long comedy sketch, either. There’s enough variety and story movement to keep things interesting, even if it feels like it’s a series of sketches tied together with a common thread. The script is co-written by Jordan Peele so each moment makes the best use of the actors strengths. There are also some hilarious side characters to balance the laughs, including Will Forte as an R&B loving pot-dealer neighbor, and Method Man as a gang leader.

Now let’s talk about the kitty! The cat scenes are the highlights of the film. The kitty and all of the kitten stunt doubles are frickin’ adorable — whether their leaping through bullet fire, meowing in agreement, or scratching up the face of an ex in a photograph. You can hear the ‘aww’ coming from the audience every time the kitten is on screen, especially when it lets out a teeny lil’ ‘meow!’ Of course, that’s also a running joke in the movie — that no one wants to give up this cat — and why the absurdity of the premise works in the film’s favor. It’s the type of plot line you want to see Key and Peele take part in. They like dealing in extremes, and this is like a cat lover’s ultimate revenge fantasy. Now that they’ve pulled this off, I can’t wait for their next movie, and can only imagine what ridiculous premise they’ll come up with next.

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Keanu opens up in theaters Friday, April 29th.

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