In their first feature-film starring roles together, the comedy team of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele master the big screen as well as the small one.
They logged many hours together on “MADtv,” “Fargo” and their own show, “Key and Peele.” The new “Keanu” catapults them into the company of Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Lemmon and Matthau, and Pryor and Wilder.
They are undeniably funny together, with Peele as the slightly more together straight man and Key as the outrageous, unpredictable one. They deftly play with and dodge traditional roles and stereotypes, and refuse to talk down to their audience.
Unlike other action-comedies like “Ride Along 2,” “Keanu” isn’t lazy and it doesn’t forget about the jokes in the final act. Plus it has the benefit of a cute kitten.
Rell (Peele, who cowrote the screenplay) has just been dumped by his girlfriend, but has found a lost kitten on his doorstep and a new lease on life. Unfortunately, burglars ransack his apartment and Keanu has gone missing.
Rell and his cousin Clarence (Key) — whose wife and daughter conveniently are out of town for the weekend — head out into the night to get Keanu back. They cross paths with a gangster called Cheddar (Method Man) and wind up helping him deliver drugs in exchange for the kitten’s return. What could go wrong?
Our two leads keep most of the plot afloat, though Will Forte gets in a few laughs as a somewhat pathetic dope dealer, who squeals when Rell threatens to break his De La Soul record.
Key and Peele stay in the moment, continually inventing laughs, dropping in and out of fake gangster personas, dubbed “Tectonic” (Peele) and “Shark Tank” (Key).
Their soft lifestyles clash in goofy ways with the hardcore thugs, especially when Clarence convinces several gang members that George Michael is cool.
While characters learn silly lessons from each another, plenty of bullets fly, and plenty of cars get smashed up in “Keanu,” the film, in the long run, appealingly doesn’t stretch or try to be anything other than funny.
Key and Peele are not unlike the notable aforementioned cinema comedy teams, who simply went to work, doing what they do best.
As long as it looks like they’re enjoying each other’s company, the laughs feel natural, and they don’t wear out their welcome, it’s a formula that works.
And a cute kitten can’t hurt.
Starring: Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Tiffany Haddish, Method Man
Written by: Jordan Peele, Alex Rubens
Directed by: Peter Atencio
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes