Keanu Review

Matt Donato

Reviewed by:
On April 28, 2016
Last modified:April 28, 2016


Keanu is a killer cinematic debut from the minds of Key And Peele, as they take to narrative storytelling with an equal balance of obscurity, hilarity, and kitten-snuggling cuteness.

Keanu Review [SXSW 2016]


For the love of all things adorable and cuddly, Keanu is the Key and Peele movie so many fans have dreamed of. After the conclusion of their smash Comedy Central sketch show, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have not only picked up exactly where they left off, but continue to advance their effortless comedic chemistry.

You’d think this trailer-worthy gag might run thin after the umpteenth heart-melting “meow,” but Peele and co-writer Alex Rubens have enough sense to build a story around the scene-stealing kitten. This isn’t a rehash of famous Key & Peele sketches, or a cheap branding cash-in – Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key mature as comedians (through gut-busting immaturity), and adapt their off-the-wall humor for a longer, sustainable feature format.

Key and Peele star as Clarence and Rell (spelling might be off, not announced yet), two cousins who find themselves in gang trouble when Rell’s cat goes missing. After a rough breakup, Rel finds an adorable kitten he names Keanu, but some real bad dudes steal the picturesque pet during a misinformed raid.

Stricken with grief, Rell intends to roll up on the local Blip chapter (Bloods and Crips rejects), backed by his faithful relative. This is where the Blip’s leader, Cheddar (Method Man), confuses the two straight-edge guys for a duo of ruthless assassins from Allentown and cuts a deal for Keanu (who is now a thugified kitty). With no other option, Clarence and Rell become Shark Tank and Tektonik (again, spelling is suspect, but this just seems right to me), two stone-cold brothers from Allentown – a lie that could, and probably, will get them killed.

Key and Peele have an eclectic and far-reaching catalog of characters and sketches, but thankfully, Keanu walks one singular, squee-worthy narrative. This isn’t a showcase of Key & Peele sketches that are paraded out for cheap nostalgia (references remain in the background, e.g. a “Liam Neesons” movie banner), and Keanu, while instantly “I Can Haz Cheeseburger” worthy, isn’t overused and ruined as a stark comedic contrast.

There’s calculated restraint shown in Peter Atencio’s direction, which not only captures Key and Peele’s kitten costar in some wild chase sequences, but delivers enjoyable action excitement amidst racially-charged, fish-out-of-water comedics. Thankfully, Key and Peele avoid going all Eddie Murphy (play every character) and embrace linear storytelling instead of choppy sketch comedy.

The comedy team borrows minimally – and without distraction – from previous winning bits, as they portray two men who merely pretend to be hard-hittin’ thug legends. But, in comparison to their televised antics, an R-rating allows their more boundary-pushing mentalities to shine, and while admittedly goofy, Key and Peele are working in their comfort zone.

Whether it be Key’s outlandish overuse of urban slang and random outbursts of in-your-face intensity, or Peele’s loving softness as he high-fives Keanu’s paw with a single finger, the more successful moments of Key & Peele are channeled through Keanu.


Together, both leading performances will leave existing fans feeling like a single beat hasn’t been missed, but new audiences should easily warm up to their signature brand of humor and emphatic manipulation of emotions. I used to think Will Forte’s facial expressions couldn’t be touched, but Keegan Michael-Key has proven to be a true reactionary contender. Key and Peele first stole our television sets, and now are invading the silver screen with their off-beat, somehow intelligent blend of social commenting and genre goofing.

Of course, Keanu is an insanely ludicrous story. Let’s not ignore that. We’re talking about a film that opens with a Boondock Saints inspired shootout, a scampering kitten dodging bullet fire, and eventually showcases The Rock-afire Explosion’s decaying animatronic corpses sitting lifelessly in the background of a kidnapping scene. Because why the f#ck not?

Craziness reigns supreme throughout Keanu. Peele’s character is willing to die for his fuzzy companion, in a very *unapologetic* John Wick way, Key trips on a drug called “HOLY SHIT,” finding himself dancing in a George Michael music video hallucination, and there’s a full shootout between Method Man and Luis Guzman, complete with sexy swimsuit models diving into a drug dealer’s pool. It’s riotous, up-scale stoner comedy infused with urban warfare, as Tiffany Haddish and Jason Mitchell represent the true Blip soldiers who Shark Tank and Tektonik are trying to fool.

Yes – Keanu is a melting pot of comedic insanity, laced with foul language and “D’AWWW” worthy kitten shots, but there are so many damn wins here that the few failed jokes are erased by…wait for it…PURRRFECT comedy. *Immediately gets thrown in pun jail*

Keanu is a film whose trailers kept me cautiously distant, but Key and Peele are on the top of their game here. You think you’ll stop audibly squealing every time Keanu appears, but you won’t, as the film finds new, and increasingly charming ways to score kitty laughs.

You’ll assume Key and Peele won’t be able to carry their ghetto schtick for 90 minutes, but they do. Hilariously. You’ll never give Keanu the credit it deserves before experiencing its entirety, but, trust me – you will. This isn’t some SNL skit that’s haplessly adapted to film. Key and Peele set Los Angeles ablaze with their gat-blastin’, kitten-cuddling, faith-having adventure, in one of the strongest, and most unexpected, recent comedic releases. Key and Peele are the comedians we deserve right now, who are willing to chase wild, looney dreams that put most mainstream comedies to shame.

I’m just happy I enjoyed Keanu as much as I did, because I don’t think my heart could handle hating a kitten wearing gold chains and a do-rag.