*** out of four
The comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have their first starring movie with Keanu, a New Orleans-shot comedy about a stolen kitten.
Key is Clarence Goobril, a married, henpecked suburbanite who drives a minivan. His friend, Rell Williams (Peele), is a stoned slacker whose girlfriend has just left him in ruin. However, Rell cheers up when a cute gray tabby kitten shows up on his doorstep. Tragedy strikes when the kitten, whom Rell names Keanu, is stolen and ends up the pet of a notorious drug dealer named Cheddar (Method Man). Rell will do anything to get Keanu back, which includes him and Clarence pretending to be dangerous dealers themselves. To complicate matters even more, two savage assassins (Key and Peele in creepy makeup that makes them both look like something out of The Grudge) want the fur ball as well.
The movie is slow going at first, but once the plot is set in place it kicks into gear with some big laughs. Writers Peele and Alex Rubens take the adorable G-rated family film about a lovable animal (Benji comes to mind) and turn it on its ear by surrounding the cute cat with R-rated mayhem – rude language and ultra violence. And it works. The reasons being are because the movie is never mean, and director Peter Atencio keeps the tone consistently silly.
Clarence schooling a group of drug dealers on the merits of the music of George Michael is hilarious, even if that particular joke has a few too many call backs throughout the movie. Another brilliant comedy scene is Rell debating with dealer Hi-C (the wonderful Tiffany Haddish) on which one of them was most instrumental in murdering three clients.
Keanu masquerades as a “stupid comedy” but in actuality the jokes are smart...and often very funny.