Keanu arrives in theaters Thursday starring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, from the Comedy Central Sketch Show, Key and Peele. Though the movie is written by Jordan Peele and Alex Rubens, not Keegan-Micheal Key, and is directed by Peter Atencio, it truly feels like the first “Key and Peele Movie.” The show Key and Peele was perhaps the most cinematic looking sketch show ever (sketches were considerably shorter, but looked no less like a film than Keanu), so translating the comedy pair’s style to the big screen wasn’t much of a stretch.
Unfortunately, transitioning from a 5 minute sketch to an hour and a half movie isn’t easy, even for masterminds Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. The result is still a very funny movie, but it pales in comparison to their sketch work from their Comedy Central days. No Spoilers Ahead! I won’t bring up the film’s true surprises or get too specific about the plot.
Keanu plays like Key and Peele‘s greatest hits, carrying many of the same themes and touching the same genres of their most classic sketches.
The film finds Rell (Jordan Peele) dumped by his girlfriend, only to have the cutest kitten in the world (for real though) show up on his doorstep at his emotional time of need. After being stolen by the 17th Street Blips (a new gang incorporating Bloods and Crips), Rell must enlist the help of his best friend Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) to infiltrate the gang and get back his cat, Keanu (so he can make move movie themed Calendar pages, I guess).The main theme/running joke of the movie is taken straight from over half the sketches on Key and Peele; Rell and Clarence are the whitest, most boring Black Guys you can find, trying to fit into the toughest Black Gang by, among other things, incorporating the “N” Word (I really don’t want to use it here) into every sentence.
Rell and Clarence make up ridiculous fake names to fit in with Blips members sporting names like Hi-C, Stitches, Trunk, and Cheddar (the latter played by Method Man). If all this sounds familiar, you must be a Key and Peele fan, as they’ve done countless sketches about badass dudes (and athletes) with over-the-top, silly names. This is just one example of how Keanu invokes favorite sketches (and genres) from the show, making it feel familiar while being more ambitious with a feature film’s run-time and budget.Other elements from the show included in Keanu range from over-the-top Matrix-y action scenes to a conversation about a fictional Liam Neesons (yes, “Neesons”) film.Keanu is a Key and Peele “Greatest Hits” movie. The film has its hilarious highlights with the comedy duo doing what they do best, but it’s not enough to save the film from itself; in adapting what could have been a short sketch into a feature film, the cracks begin to show in Key and Peele’s formula. Some of the film feels like filler, meant to get Keanu from one mini-sketch idea into another while carrying the film’s plot. Keanu feels like it was shooting for a Pineapple Express type film, and while I did enjoy the movie, the film is neither as consistently funny or as skilled with action as writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s 2nd film. Bottom Line: Keanu is funny, especially if you are a fan of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s work, but in order to create a feature, it feels like we’re occasionally getting material that wouldn’t make the cut on their top-notch sketch show (filler, if you will). The plot meanders a bit to fill time, while the action and the cast don’t really seem to fully take advantage of a feature film budget. Still funny, though!