Well known for their sketch comedy, Key and Peele jump into features with a movie whose narrative threatens to be a great sketch stretched tissue-paper thin at nearly an hour and 40 minutes. Instead, the movie holds strong throughout, managing to gain confidence as the jokes fly and stick landing after landing.
A despondent Rell (Jordan Peele, who co-wrote the movie with Alex Rubens) adopts a kitten—he names him Keanu—and starts to live again. When a street gang, led by Method Man, catnaps Keanu, Rell and his cousin, Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key), must impersonate a mysterious pair of gangbangers in order to recover the cutest feline ever. The logline sounds silly because it is; however, it not only works but excels on the power of the duo’s fearless play on stereotypes and ’80s action movies.
The movie is less composed of a series of jokes or gross-out gags (see almost every R-rated comedy of the last few years) than based around the humor of mistaken identity. Laughs are generated every time the very middle-class, educated Rell and Clarence act tough for Cheddar’s street gang, including Jason Mitchell, aka Straight Outta Compton’s Eazy-E. Clarence’s adaptation of a corporate team-building exercise for his thuggish new compatriots is a prime example of the film’s playful nature. The running George Michael gag never gets old, either. Rare missteps include an odd sequence here or there (i.e. the Anna Faris drug deal).
The climactic showdown occurring at a shut-down Rock-afire Explosion factory was a personal treat; I grew up a big fan of Showbiz Pizza’s animatronic band, especially gorilla frontman Fatz Geronimo. The cleverly funny Keanu should appeal to the comedy duo’s longtime fans and newcomers alike.
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