Comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele make a triumphant transition to the big screen
US double act Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are the freshest wind to hit comedy in years, the cinematic content of their Comedy Central TV show making it inevitable that the big screen would beckon. While their fans might feel that the action comedy Keanu plays it a lot safer than their sketch show, Peter Atencio’s film marks a smooth and accomplished transition for the pair.
The subject is gangster pets: the Keanu of the title is a lovable kitten who appears at the door of hopeless stoner Rell (Peele). Rell soon falls for Keanu while creating a calendar incorporating the kitten into scenarios from The Shining, Crimson Tide and more. Their blooming love affair is interrupted when Keanu is stolen, leading Rell to enlist the help of the equally hapless Clarence (Key) to infiltrate the LA underworld. Creating gangster identities Tectonic and Shark Tank, Rell and Clarence are mistaken for two deadly killers (also played by Key and Peele), and rise to the challenge of shedding their toothless domesticity for some red-blooded urban action.
The familiar mistaken identity shtick harks back to Hope and Crosby and beyond, but Key and Peele breathe fresh life into it by throwing endless barbs at the clichés of black music, movies and culture generally. There are inspired scenes as Rell and Clarence confront drug dealer Cheddar (Method Man), as Clarence attempts to organise bonding sessions for street gangs, and a wild drug deal gone wrong allows actress Anna Faris to send herself up wickedly.
If some of the jokes drag a little (the jibes at Clarence’s George Michael fixation go on way too long), it’s hard to complain when there are so many funny flights of fancy. UK audiences yet to discover Key and Peele will find this amiable, surprisingly violent film an ideal introduction to their comedic art.
General release from Fri 15 Jul.