Going in I didn’t know a whole lot about Keanu other than it was a comedy about a kitten that gets kidnapped by gangsters. I’ve never seen the film’s stars, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (AKA Key & Peele) in anything except the first season of the FX cable series, Fargo (which is awesome, by the way), but if this movie is any indication, these guys are incredibly talented and funny.
In the 2014 action film, John Wick, an assassin played by Keanu Reeves goes after the mob for killing his puppy, but in this movie two nerdy guys find themselves infiltrating the mob to retrieve their kitten named Keanu. It’s not difficult to imagine that one provided the impetus for the other, but that theory has conflicting stories on the Interwebs. Either way, Keanu Reeves does make a hilarious guest appearance (of sorts) in this film.
The kitty, Keanu, escapes a violent melee between rival drug-dealers and shows up on the doorstep of Rell Williams (Peele), who has recently broken up with his girlfriend and can use the unconditional love the newfound pet provides. But in a case of mistaken identity his home is broken into and the cat is stolen, ending up in the arms of the thuggish ganglord, Cheddar (played by Method Man.)
In order to re-take the tabby Rell enlists the help of his cousin and George Michael enthusiast, Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key), and the two find themselves neck-deep in gangsta misadventures where they pose as hardcore killers nicknamed “Tectonic” and “Shark Tank.” Kitten motivated craziness ensues.
Keanu is a little slow-going at first, but once the premise is set the comedy really starts heating up. If you are a cat lover, you might be a little disappointed in the small amount of Keanu’s screen time, but the little critter steals the show when he is seen. (Parents beware, despite the kitty’s cuteness this IS an adult R-rated comedy.)
The film also stars Tiffany Haddish as Hi-C, a female gangster and Rell’s love interest; Nia Long as Clarence’s wife, Hannah; Luis Guzman as Bacon, the leader of a rival gang; Will Forte as Rell’s inept neighbor, Hulka; and Key & Peele also playing the film’s leather-clad antagonists, Smoke & Oil Dresden.
As much as I enjoyed this movie, the crowd at the screening I attended loved it even more as they were laughing at what must have been in-jokes for the regular viewers of Comedy Central’s Key & Peele show – and some of these gags were (apparently) rolling-on-the-floor funny for those in the know. So if you’re a fan then you’ve got that going for you too.
Directed by Peter Atencio and written by Jordan Peele and Alex Rubens, Keanu is a very fun feline farce in the spirit of the old Gene Wilder & Richard Pryor comedies like Silver Streak and Stir Crazy, albeit without the white guy. I wasn’t a fan before seeing this movie, but I’m really looking forward to whatever Key & Peele do next. Grade: 7/10
Photos © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
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