Keanu is the first feature length film from comedy duo Key and Peele, written by Peele in part and directed by Peter Atencio, whose work I’m not familiar with but I can tell you should be completely categorized as “meh.”
The issue with any television show that makes the jump to feature length film is “will this work?” Especially for a comedy sketch show. If you think about comedy sketch troupes that make full on films, apart from Monty Python, there aren’t many that just jump out as being actual good films. And even the Monty Python films, while they had a cohesive-ish story in the background were still just a series of sketches layered on top of this very, very thin and silly story. And that’s what worked for them. They knew that their films were impossibly crazy and they embraced that.
Herein lies the first problem with Keanu. The story, without spoiling too much, is about Rell (Peele), a recently single hipster that is incredibly sad from his break up who is looking for a shining light. He gets a call from his cousin Clarence (Key) who is on his way over to his place to cheer him up. Rell here’s something at the door and opens it to find the most adorable cat in the world, Keanu, sitting on his doorstep. The world is looking up. Rell and Clarence go to a movie to try to cheer up Rell and when they return, Keanu has been stolen. So they have to go to the underbelly of the city and take their “nice guy” act and turn it into “hard gangster” by putting on ghetto accents and an over abundant use swear words.
That’s the entire framework of the film. And unlike Monty Python who were fully aware of the insane quality of their story, Keanu is played straight, and it’s so incredibly awkward.
Now while some could say that you could look at this film about a catnapping and if you look a little behind it you could see a comment on societal norms, and for the first 10 minutes or so of the movie, I would agree with that. The only issue, and this is the biggest issue of the movie itself, is that this one single idea for jokes is what is used throughout the rest of the movie. It gets old. It gets old about a second after the joke should have ended and it stays that way for the rest of the movie.
Now I’m not saying I didn’t laugh, because I did. I laughed a lot. Key and Peele have incredible chemistry and the ad libs and screams and subtle jokes work incredibly well. The only problem is that they are way too far and few to really matter. But the jokes get boring and are easily predicted but are done the best way they can be, if that makes any sense.
Keanu is an insanely cute cat. And anytime the cat is on screen it steals the movie. There were fully grown men, including yours truly, letting the “awwwwwwww’s” fly the entire night. Again, not something you should hinge a 90-minute film on, but maybe a three minute YouTube video.
The story takes a very serious and dark turn towards the third act which I found to be really interesting, only to be completely taken away by a very silly, Marx Brothers-esque showdown. There were moments when the film wanted to be a cool John Wick style action film, but the director had zero idea how to film action and relied on goofy slow motion and bland full frame diving shots. It was like if Bad Boys was directed by John Hughes.
All in all I didn’t hate this film, but I didn’t love it. When the comedy is in that groove then Key and Peele are unstoppable but in this film they are all over the place. I would Redbox this before I sat in a theatre and paid full price.