Here’s an MMT first family! A tag team review, by Darryl King and myself, in honor of the comedy duo Key & Peele’s first feature film KEANU.
Here’s what Darryl thinks:
Cat videos and sketches from the comedic duo known as Key and Peele, have become 2 of the more popular topics watched and loved on YouTube and the Internet, so putting these two together should be as great as peanut butter and jelly, Netflix and chilling, or tax refunds and spending but the questions that arise from such a pairing are… Can a story about a cat named “Keanu” carry a movie and be as funny as the skits Key & Peele have become famous for. Can Key & Peele make the transition from tv stars to movies? And lastly… is “Keanu” a good movie?
The ability, timing and know-how to make the leap from sketch comedians to movie stars has always been a daunting task. From shows like Saturday Night Live, Second City TV or Mad TV, the jump from the small screen to silver screen has been attempted by many, leaving a litany of successes and failures.
“Keanu” is an average to good movie with some quite funny moments, ones that will make you laugh but not bust a gut. At its core “Keanu” is a comedy skit, stretched out over a full length movie, diluting a pretty funny premise that works for a short piece and extends it over a 2 hour time frame. Exploring and expanding material created for small dosages rarely find their audience for mass appeal, usually these efforts fail except when the film has a very singular focus to draw upon, in this case… the cat, Keanu.
This movie is loosely based upon the movie “John Wick” which stars Keanu Reeves, (thus the name for the cat) Peele like Reeves loses his pet and swears to right that wrong, and in his case find his cuddly cat… “Keanu”
The acting of Key & Peele are their usual funny comedic selves who are endearing and believable which is their charm. Tiffany Haddish is refreshing in this film, even though her growth as a character could have been surrounded with a better storylines for her intended payoff in the end. Jason Mitchell, after a stellar performance as Easy E in Straight Outta Compton, is under utilized and perhaps wasn’t the best choice for his growing career. The familiarity of talent like Nia Long and Method Man aides this film at becoming digestible.
“Keanu” is a pretty good first entry for Key and Peele into the movie business and the proof of their staying power will be their next project. Is it a good movie?? It is kinda slow in the middle with an undeserved final act, but using the cat as the plot device to move the story bridges the movie and with just enough funny spikes to make you feel good about watching this movie. Unfortunately the film isn’t as cute as the cat named “Keanu.”
Here are my thoughts:
I had such high hopes for the feature film début of the brilliant comedy tag-team Keegan-Michael Key & Jordan Peele. I mean the premise is comedic gold – man loses girlfriend, man becomes crushed, man finds cute kitten that he immediately falls for and names “Keanu,” cute kitten is kidnapped, man and best friend take on gangsters and crime lords to rescue cute kitten. I mean, in this age of social media and love of cat videos, how could this not work?
Well for starters, it plays out like an extended comedy sketch. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Key & Peele’s work – and have been a fan since their MADtv days – but Keanu would have been better off being about 30 minutes shorter. Many of the funniest jokes are unfortunately shown or hinted at in the trailer releases, and several occur very early on in the film. As the movie progressed, the jokes appeared redundant or simply were misses. Segue: did you know MADtv is returning to primetime?
I thought the film was on a roll when I spotted the Heat and New Jack City posters on the wall in the Rell (Jordan Peele) character’s home – and there were quite a few action scenes that ridicule the violence in those films, along with the film that Keanu most resembles if speaking parody – John Wick (a Keanu Reeves film). And speaking of Keanu Reeves, pay attention for a special voiceover about mid-way through the film – in addition to a really fun 80’s throwback courtesy of a musician, with whom Key’s character (Clarence) is obsessed.
In fairness to the writers, I will note that Peele, who co-wrote the screenplay with “Key and Peele” writer Alex Rubens, explained the film’s creation this way,
“I wanted to do something crazy and over the top and dark, expanding on the kind of comedy we did in the ‘Key and Peele’ show. The roles of Clarence and Rell were specifically created for Keegan and me, so we could play them in a way no one else could. I know the things that are unique to us, so I knew if we could capture those elements, but in a funny and exaggerated way, we could create something new for us, with characters the likes of which even our fans have never seen.”
Not sure if the non-streetwise guys who venture into gang territory is something I’d describe as never seen before – like the movie Trespass for instance – but I get what he was saying – I just don’t think it will stand as the remarkable comedy they were seeking. Prayerfully the next film will show and prove the duo’s ability to shine on the big screen.
I really wanted to love this movie, but if I am honest I must admit I did not – and would rate it 2 ½ out of 5 stars. Although I did have a few hard chuckles, it wasn’t the hearty fall-out laughter normally elicited by these two. I’m fairly certain KEANU will perform decently at the box office this weekend – before word of mouth runs rampant – and hopefully Key & Peele can get another project greenlit fairly easily. Let’s hope the second time’s the charm.