It may be called Keanu with an adorable kitten named after the actor who gave us Neo/Johnny Utah/John Wick, but the debut feature starring Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele” could’ve been titled George Michael as well. The iconic 1980s British crooner gets his props throughout this action comedy that may have felt right at home in theaters when “Faith” and “Father Figure” were burning up the charts.
The duo’s basic cable program was a rather groundbreaking show with some truly inspired bits. You won’t really find that here. Instead, Keanu is a breezy if rather forgettable tale of the tail of the cat who captures the hearts of everyone who comes in contact with it. Jordan Peele is Rell, who’s depressed after his girlfriend broke up with him when that darn kitty comes into his possession. His best bud/cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) is stuck in a dull middle class existence with a bored wife (Nia Long) who’s out of town for the weekend. The pair soon learn that Keanu is actually the property of a drug kingpin whose employees were recently mowed down by assassins known as The Allentown Boys (also played by Key and Peele). Before you know it, Rell and Clarence are posing as them in an effort to get the kidnapped Keanu back.
Their journey brings them to the underground L.A. drug scene and a crew led by Cheddar (Method Man) and Hi-C (Tiffany Haddish), who Rell has the hots for. Of course, they need nifty nicknames, too. Tectonic and Shark Tank suffice. As they try to find that fabulously cute feline, the guys teach some criminals the joys of George Michael in a humorous bit that just keeps going and going.
Maybe that’s part of the problem here. The shark out of water premise of Keanu barely can sustain itself for 100 minutes. There are moments sprinkled throughout that work well. An unexpected cameo from Scary Movie lead Anna Faris is amusing. Key and Peele do succeed in proving that their charisma on the small screen translates to the big one. And, yes, that kitten really is a gem. Yet the concept of these guys having to “get hard” (to borrow a phrase from a far worse Kevin Hart vehicle that uses similar plotting) is a rather familiar one. This is a talented pair at work, though. I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up when they get “One More Try”, as that hit song says from Mr. Michael.
**1/2 (out of four)