Catch Keanu while it’s still in theaters

What I like about Key and Peele is their admiration for movies. They don’t just parody specific movies (see: the Gremlins 2 sketch), but sometimes they target entire types of movies at a time (see: the fun house villain sketch). Any comedy duo who casts character-actors like Clint Howard, while paying unusual attention to lighting and cinematography, aren’t just trying to prove they’re literate in movies, but they’re gunning to make movies of their own. I’m sure Keanu is only one of many to come.

Rell (Jordan Peele) has just been dumped by his girlfriend. When we first see him he’s moping beside a bong and a couple of posters for New Jack City and Heat. His best friend Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) is a suburbanite who drives around in a mini-van while listening to George Michael on repeat. Clarence is on his way to cheer Rell up, but it turns out he doesn’t need to anymore. Rell has adopted a stray kitten he calls Keanu. Now all is well in his world.

What Rell and Clarence don’t know is Keanu has just escaped from a shootout at a Mexican cartel operation. The two super-assassins responsible for the shootout are also played by Key and Peele, barely recognizable beneath the makeup effects and wigs. These guys also want the kitten, but when a local gang tries to trash the house of a dumb drug dealer (Will Forte), they accidentally target Rell’s house. Then the leader of the gang, played by Method Man, takes a liking to the kitty, too. So when Rell and Clarence go to get Keanu back, the gang mistakes them for the assassins and… well, this sounds like a routine comedy, doesn’t it?

That’s the thing: it is a routine comedy, but not the low-effort kind we’re used to today. This is the kind Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder could have starred in: a simple vehicle for complex talent. That’s how good Key and Peele are at what they do. Each time the movie starts to lose its footing on the slippery slope of situation comedy, they completely save it with their performances. There’s an unlikely scene in which the boys must perform a wall-flip in order to prove they’re the assassins who shot up the drug operation earlier in the movie. In most comedies the flip itself would be the joke. The joke here is Clarence’s face when he accidentally nails it.

So do you like Key and Peele’s TV show? If you do, then you’ll like this movie. You can say the same thing about Monty Python films, but otherwise it’s pretty rare for sketch performers to make the leap to feature length movies so well. I think it’s because most of them just see it as a promotion while Key and Peele have been grooming themselves for the position for years.

Yeah, it’s absurd to believe a street gang could ever mistake these two for bad-ass murderers and I certainly would have objected if they weren’t so funny. I usually dislike comedies that rely on such tired bullshit, but I’m not entirely sure that Key and Peele aren’t parodying that stuff, too.

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