Comedy Central phenoms Key and Peele and the cutest kitten ever put on the big screen team up for “Keanu,” a bullet-riddled, laugh-out-loud “gangsta”farce.
It’s wildly uneven, rather like their TV series (Jordan Peele and series director Peter Atencio scripted it). And it is wincingly violent, with some of the John Woo-style slo-mo shootouts going on too long and spilling too much blood.
But the chemistry is still there, the banter between the bald, bug-eyed, high-maintenance metrosexual Keegan Michael Key (left, above) and the slow-burning Peele still zings.
Those versions of their personas are on display in this comedy, about an LA stoner, Rell (Peele) and his married, one-kid and Honda Minivan cousin, Clarence (Key).
We meet Rell, mid-bong hit. He’s lost his girlfriend and is feeling sorry for himself. But then this cat shows up at his door.
We’ve met the kitten first. He was a drug lord’s pet, the lone survivor of a shoot-out in the abandoned church turned drug lab. And he is irresistible.
Rell devotes himself to this cuter-than-cute kitten, names him “Keanu,” poses him in shadowbox movie scenes (See Keanu in “Reservoir Dogs,””Point Break,” etc.) and just generally dotes on the critter that gives him reason to live.
Then the kitten is catnapped, probably a mistake, as Rell’s drug dealer (Will Forte, a stitch in cornrows) lives next door. Rell is livid and on a mission. The buttoned-down Clarence, a “team-building” coach, in his Minivan Dad-clothes, wearing his George Michael fandom out loud and proud, is dragged along on a trip to the dark side.
But getting that cat back is going to be tricky. Everybody who meets him, from thugs to cops, falls for Keanu the kitten.
Peele may do the writing, but Key is the truly hilarious one here. Clarence is the ultimate fish-0ut-of-water. They have to look “hard” when mingling with the gangsters who stand between them and the cat. Rell figures he can fake it. But Clarence isn’t keen on slinging the N-word around “shiftlessly,” just to pass.
Facial tattoos prompt a “God gave you ONE face, why would you change it?”
His eyes bug out and the N-bombs tumble out of his mouth, inventing gang slang as he does.
“Word to Big Bird…Wordness to the turdness.”
Clarence convinces gang bangers that George Micheal is black — “George Michael is holding it DOWN.”And both of them try to look capable of just about anything.
It’s a movie with scattered moments of humor and the occasional Big Comic Idea, starting with the cat, a cute running gag.
Anna Faris plays a drug-buying, samurai sword-swinging version of herself.
“I was in ‘Scary Movie’ 1, 2, 3 and 4. Not 5! Too old!”
A drug hallucination becomes the highlight of the film.
Whenever the movie runs out of ideas, which is often, Key is there to amp up the bug-eyed intensity to hold us over until something funny happens. Just as he did on the equally uneven TV show.
It’s not up to the lowdown level of “Pineapple Express,” which was kind of the idea. It’s just not gonzo enough, not as brisk or out there, not as overloaded with funny supporting players. (Method Man and Luis Guzman play gangleaders).
“Pineapple Express” had Seth Rogen and Danny McBride. But it didn’t have the world’s most adorable kitten. Keanu the cat helps “Keanu” the movie get over and get by, a passable comedy from a team that needs a little more outside help to make the big score.
MPAA Rating:R for violence, language throughout, drug use and sexuality/nudity
Cast: Keegan Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Method Man, Nia Long, Anna Faris, Luis Guzman, Tiffany Haddish
Credits: Directed by Peter Atencio, script by Jordan Peele and Alex Rubens. A Warner Brothers/New Line release.
Running time: 1:38