Director: Peter Atencio
Hilarious short form content and adorable animals make up the lifeblood of modern audiences. One would think that a theatrical release starring two of the foremost current minds in comedic sketchery alongside the cutest kitten to grace the silver screen in decades would have crowds breaking down the doors. After the cancellation of Key and Peele’s wildly successful Comedy Central show, KEANU was meant to be the beacon of hope—a symbol of fabulous content yet to come. However, similar to the fate of Amy Schumer’s TRAINWRECK, Key and Peele’s comedic genius does not quite translate to the screen as well as their loyal fanbase may have hoped.
But, boy, does this adorable little guy soften the blow
KEANU finds recently-heartbroken Rell (Peele) finding new love in an adorable stray kitten who turns up on his doorstep. When the kitten’s drug lord owner steals him back, Rell and overtly suburban Clarence (Key) descend into the drug-slinging underbelly of Los Angeles, adopting hardcore gangster personas to get little Keanu back. Along the way, they learn the secrets of independence and confidence while instilling a new love of George Michael in their newfound friends.
This is a funny movie; rather, it is not an unfunny movie. Key and Peele are just plain funny together. They are a terrific comedic duo, and when they hit their stride, it works. The send-ups of popular action movie tropes are patently hilarious, particularly its replacement of a “damsel in distress” with an adorable kitten—the most sympathetic image any writer could possibly conjure. Key and Peele’s love of film showcased in many of their most popular sketches (“WHAT ABOUT THE LIAM NEESONS?!”) shines through in KEANU. Any movie lover could go out and buy themselves a themed calendar, but only a true cinephile would dress up their pet to create their own film-inspired scenes. Stick around during the credit roll for these adorably deranged nods to classic and recent film favorites.
KEANU both succeeds and falters when Key and Peele return to their short form roots. The film’s funniest moments feel like they could easily appear on the duo’s former show. Keegan Michael Key plopped right into a George Michael music video would fit right in alongside Hingle McCringleberry and company. On the other hand . . . these bits are occasionally played out. An initially funny sequence with Anna Farris extends far too long, leaving audiences checking their watches waiting for the next scene to start. This is not an issue in short form content. You either laugh the whole way through, or click away to something else. In a feature, the story needs to move along. These missteps cause the pacing in KEANU to be alternately breakneck fast and soul-crushingly slow.
Perhaps the biggest downfall here is simply this: if you want to look at a really cute cat, there are a wealth of Tumblr. .gif blogs to peruse. If you want to watch Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele being hilarious, they have an entire series worth of well-executed sketches. KEANU never quite tops the quality and convenience of these two options, and one would be hard-pressed to find a third reason to shell out money for this film. Given the existing catalog of media, KEANU brings little to the table; never as cute as unlimited cat .gifs, and never quite as funny as Key and Peele at their best.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend