Thursday, June 9, 2016
**1/2 out of ****
It's fair to say that we should have expected more from these two in their movie debut, as a rightfully beloved comic duo. I count Keegan-Michael Key and Jordon Peele to be among the best sketch comedy teams in history. Unfortunately, Keanu, a violent crime comedy starring two simple guys in over their heads doesn't do much to show the range of these comic actors, nor does it offer up an effectively funny comic twist on the genre they're lovingly mocking, with the exception of the film's title character: a kitten.
The kitten is the pet of a drug lord who is gunned down by two rogue assassins resembling the main characters (because they are played by Key and Peele -but as mute demon-like forces of evil) who take interest in the undeniable cuteness of the animal before it runs away and is eventually found by a depressed stoner played by Peele who finds new invigoration in life through the adorable creature he names Keanu (after the Hawaiian word for "cool breeze" -and not the actor known for being in baddass action movies).
His best friend, played by Key, is celebrating a slight vacation from his yuppy life after his wife (Nia Long) goes on a trip with friends. One night the two return to the stoner's apartment to find the place ransacked and Keanu missing. It turns out that the apartment was mistaken for his marijuana dealer's (Will Forte hilariously playing a wannabe urban thug).
After interrogating the dealer they find out Keanu was taken by someone higher up the criminal chain, played by Method Man, who the two approach pretending to be criminals in order to make a deal for the return of Keanu. Unexpectedly, they are mistaken for the two rogue assassins and are given a deal for the kitten if they perform some unsavory work.
More comic misunderstandings ensue, while the majority of the movie depends on the question of how convincingly they can pretend to be gangsters. The two often feud regarding their sense of racial identity with the punchline often being how "white" they are. These jokes continue throughout the film and are hit-and-miss until the movie eventually finds itself beating dead tan-colored horse.
If you've seen their show, then you know their less-funny dry banter sessions spliced in between the sketches. This movie invests too much in the belief that this particular schtick of their's can last the length of a movie.
What makes the movie function is the Pineapple Express style contextual humor of producing the film as if it were a serious action movie in contrast with the ridiculous premise. We may have seen this kind of a comedy before but we've never seen a kitten averting bullets and explosions in slow motion - a repeat device of this movie that actually doesn't get old. And yes - Keanu Reeves finds his way into this movie.