Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele come off of their Comedy Central show, Key & Peele, in their first feature film as a duo, Keanu. Does the movie bring the funny or does it prove that Key and Peele should stick to television?
Rell (Peele) has just been dumped by his girlfriend and he is wallowing in misery. His cousin, Clarence (Key) wants to cheer him up, so he heads over to Rell’s apartment. When he arrives there, though, Rell introduces him to Keanu, an adorable kitten that showed up at his doorstep. Keanu becomes Rell’s entire world until two weeks later when he and Clarence return to the apartment to find it tossed and Keanu cat-napped. Rell immediately suspects that the burglars were after his neighbor and weed dealer, Hulka (Will Forte). Hulka reveals that the perpetrators were probably the 17th Street Blips, a gang made up of the members kicked out of the Bloods and Crips. Their leader is Cheddar (Method Man) and he does indeed have Keanu. Rell and Clarence decide to play rough characters in order to ingratiate themselves to the gang members. However, when they go along with Cheddar’s assumption that they are the murderous Allentown Brothers, things begin to spiral out of control with hilarious results.
That’s all I’ll reveal of the plot, because to tell more would be to give away more of the jokes, and there are a lot of them. Keanu proves that Key and Peele can most certainly carve out a place in the film world for themselves. The screenplay was written by Peele and Alex Rubens, who was a writer on Key & Peele. There are several jokes that are called back to throughout the film, but the humor never fades—the George Michael bit from the trailer delivers amazing comedic dividends. Also, while you might think that the joke of the nerdy Key and Peele selling themselves as hardcore gangsters might get old, it doesn’t. Every time it feels like the premise is about to be stretched to its limit, they deliver another hilarious line or do something funny to save it. The film is not only smart about how it skewers action movies and hip hop culture, but it offers a lot of homages to great films like Boogie Nights and The Matrix, while fans of The Wire will get an added few laughs from Method Man’s character name. The only problem I really had with the film was that a love story subplot felt shoehorned into the film and didn’t completely work for me. However, the subplot involving Clarence’s wife, Hannah (Nia Long) is given just enough time to have a major payoff at the end. The filmmakers knew just how much time to devote to that story and it pays off in spades.
Key and Peele are great in this film. They do double duty here—no surprise considering all the characters they played on their show—and play both Clarence and Rell as well as the real Allentown Brothers when they show up. Method Man is very good in his role as are Tiffany Haddish, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Jason Mitchell, and Jamar Malchi Neighbors as Hi-C, Trunk, Bud, and Stitches—Cheddar’s gang. Nia Long is good in her scenes and Rob Huebel shows up to help out in her subplot. Forte is also great as Hulka. His fate by the end of the film is really hilarious. There are also a few great cameos that I won’t spoil here, but one features one of my favorite character actors of all time.
Keanu is absolutely hilarious. There are a few dead spots here and there, as all comedies tend to have, but overall, it’s one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time. The shame of it all is, it will probably get swallowed up in the wake of Captain America: Civil War, but if you’re looking to laugh at the movies, don’t let this one get away from you.