By Chaz Lipp
I’ll preface this review with the admission that I’ve never seen the award-winning sketch comedy TV series Key & Peele. The popular series ran for five seasons (2012-2015) and launched Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (both MADtv alumni) to stardom. I checked out the duo’s new feature film Keanu because the trailers looked funny. Otherwise I bring no preconceived notions to the table.
For about 45 minutes or so, Keanu is a lot of fun. Key and Peele play Clarence and Rell, a pair of basically straight-laced guys who are best friends who get wrapped up in a crime/drug ring. Rell indulges in habitual weed smoking – that’s as far as his ‘bad boy’ streak goes. As for Clarence’s street cred, let’s put it this way: his primary obsession in life is George Michael (which means we get several choice Michael cuts on the soundtrack). As for the aforementioned drug-related crime circuit, Clarence and Rell become embroiled due to a kitten adopted by Rell. Heartbroken over a recent breakup, Rell finds solace in caring for the cute kitty.
Turns out the kitten (which he names Keanu) formerly belonged to local gang leader Cheddar (Method Man), who in turn got the cat from an even more fearsome kingpin. Though understandably hesitant, Clarence joins Rell in an ‘undercover’ mission to retrieve the cat. Most of the jokes center on Clarence and Rell’s insurmountable squareness (Rell to Clarence: “You sound like Richard Pryor impersonating a white person,” to which Clarence retorts: “You sound like John Ritter all the time.”). After winning the wary trust of Cheddar, the two suburban guys find themselves training a team of criminals on matters they of course have no experience in (including the pushing of a potent new crack blend called “Holy Sh*t”).
Frankly, as the comedy shifts toward pure action (or action-oriented parody to be more specific), the whole thing becomes tiresome. At a relatively compact 98 minutes, Keanu wears out the welcome of its paper-thin premise.
Keanu Image: Warner Bros./New Line Cinema