Movie review: ‘Keanu’ an uneven comedy experience
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have a unique comedy style; one that has been a hit with audiences. Their sketch show, “Key & Peele,” was a popular spot on cable, and the duo have gotten plenty of roles in movies and other shows. They even appeared together in the first season of “Fargo” to bring some comedic relief.
With “Keanu,” the feature film that opened on April 29, they look to take their brand a step further, carrying a movie all on their own. And there is the germ of a fascinating idea here. In fact, I laughed throughout the trailer and was excited to see the film.
But what you get is a funny sketch stretched over 98 minutes. There’s funny moments, and even some inside jokes, but it doesn’t make for a dynamic movie-going experience.
The film centers on a pair of cousins — Clarence (Key), a married father, and Rell (Peele), who’s coming off a failed relationship — that get drawn into a crime empire. It begins when Rell finds a baby kitten on his doorstep and instantly forms a bond.
Rell and his baby kitten, Keanu, are inseparable and it helps him get over his break up. On Friday night, after his family heads out for the weekend, Clarence heads over to take Rell out to a movie. While they’re gone, Rell’s apartment is broken into and Keanu is taken.
The police don’t offer much hope of finding the cat, but Rell won’t give up. After pressing his neighbor and weed dealer Hulka (Will Forte), Rell discovers Keanu was likely snatched by a gang that broke into the wrong apartment. Despite Clarence’s objections, Rell sets out to confront the gang and get Keanu back.
Posing as a pair of thugs from out-of-town, Clarence and Rell get a meeting with the gang’s leader, Cheddar (Method Man), who promises to give them the kitten as payment if they help him get his drug empire up and running.
Soon, Clarence and Rell discover their quiet weekend plans have gotten them in over their head.
The idea of all these gangsters fighting over a kitten is pretty hilarious. In fact, the idea of a couple regular guys joining a gang in order to get their stolen kitten back is pretty hilarious. It was that sales pitch that drew me to this movie, which I thought looked like the possible sneaky hit of April.
Instead, I found a movie that had hilarious moments, adorable moments and a lot of boring and over-the-top moments. Most of the funniest stuff is in the trailer, and the rest of the film is sort of hit-or-miss. And that’s a shame, because Key and Peele are dynamic comedic performers. They are good in this movie, but it’s sadly not a compelling overall story.
The script is probably a lot of the problem here. It comes from Peele and Alex Rubens, who wrote for the “Key & Peele” sketch show. This script feels like it has some of the problems that have plagued “Saturday Night Live” movie adaptations. There’s the germ of a good idea, but when it’s stretched to feature length it can’t maintain at a high level throughout.
I like Key and Peele as performers, and I’d like to see what they can do headlining a different film, but “Keanu” elicited little more than a shoulder shrug from me.
“Keanu” has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for violence, language throughout, drug use and sexuality/nudity. Enter with caution.
Two stars out of four.