3.5 Stars

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have the physical differences that define most lauded comedy duos, but what’s made them such successes in the last few years is that, physicality aside, the two are more than willing to switch things up to make things both funny and surprising. As their variety show Key & Peele proved, Key and Peele can alternate between playing spastic and straight man with surprising flexibility. Keanu finds a way to let both Key and Peele take on various versions of their characters, while introducing the world’s most adorable kitten.

After barely escaping a bloodbath courtesy of two silent criminals, a tiny grey kitten finds his way to the front door of the newly-dumped stoner Rell (Peele), who instantly bonds with the kitten. When Keanu, as the kitten’s named, is catnapped a few weeks later, Rell enlists his uptight cousin Clarence (Key) to help him find his way through LA’s criminal underbelly. They eventually find their way to the gangster Cheddar (Method Man), who confuses the two for the criminals responsible for the murderers from the beginning of the film. Rell and Clarence quickly pass themselves off as their doppelgängers, going by the names Tectonic and Shark Tank, in order to find Keanu.

Those alter egos are responsible for most of Keanu‘s running time, as Rell and Clarence attempt to present themselves as cold-blooded killers. Key and Peele have so much fun with this part of the film, it’s almost enough to cover just how barely sketched out this part of the film is, ultimately. Some gags, like Clarence’s love for George Michael’s Faith, pop up several times. Others, like an appearance from Anna Faris as herself, just seem to pad out the film as a whole.

Beyond that particular part of the film, though, Keanu comes across as what could be several sketches on Key & Peele strung together, with a few basic plot lines for Rell and Clarence thrown in to fit into the structure of a standard comedy. Most of them revolve around romantic relationships, and they’re rather formulaic. That’s not the worst thing in the world; Key and Peele have plenty of room to go through a series of different ways to play their characters. But it lacks some of the satirical edge of the best parts of Key & Peele. From other comedians, delivering something like Keanu would be completely welcome. Both Key and Peele are talented enough to let it slide (for the most part), but hopefully whatever they do together next will incorporate some of the sharper satirical elements that informed the best Key & Peele sketches.

Or, you know, they could just show more of Keanu, who very well may be the most adorable kitten ever. It’s no wonder that everyone wants him.

Keanu • Rating: R (for violence, language throughout, drug use and sexuality/nudity) • Runtime: 100 minutes • Genre: Comedy • Cast: Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Nia Long, Tiffany Haddish, Method Man, Luis Guzman, Will Forte • Director: Peter Atencio • Writers: Alex Rubens, Jordan Peele • Distributor: Warner Bros.


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