Key and Peele score with Keanu
Funnymen Key Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael-Key (of “Key & Peele”) bring their act to the big screen with Keanu, a loose but likable action comedy in which their palpable chemistry brings to mind such illustrious duos as Cheech & Chong, Abbott & Costello, The McKenzie Brothers (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas), and Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor.
Key and Peele play cousins Clarence and Rell, who find themselves (way) in over their heads when they encounter a notorious gang of street toughs calling themselves “the 17th Street Blips” (a combination of “Bloods” and “Crips”). In order to secure the release of Rell’s kitten, whom he’s named “Keanu,” they must pass themselves off as tough, fearless gangstas.
This needless to say, gets them deeper and deeper into trouble, with predictable but frequently humorous results. Keanu, written by Peele and “Key & Peele” alumnus Alex Rubens (Peele and Key are also among the producers), offers a spoof of contemporary urban shoot-’em-ups as well as nostalgia for the ‘70s “blaxploitation era,” sending up ethnic stereotypes in cheerful, sometimes inspired fashion.
Politically correct it’s not, but Keanu and its star duo are so affable and appealing, the film is hard to resist, particularly for Key and Peele fans and despite losing some traction in the last third by upping the action quotient. A running gag about Clarence’s affinity for singer George Michael is run into the ground, but not before mining some good laughs. Keanu the kitten is appropriately adorable, replete with bling.
Will Forte, Tiffany Haddish, Method Man, Luis Guzman and Nia Long, provide engaging support, and Anna Faris (unbilled) contributes a screamingly funny cameo as herself that’s on par with Bill Murray’s similar duties in Zombieland (2009). One guess who provides the voice of the kitten.
Peter Antencio, also a “Key & Peele” veteran, appears to have been inspired by the films of Blake Edwards, Walter Hill, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, UNCSA School of Filmmaking graduate David Gordon Green (particularly his 2008 hit Pineapple Express) and Troy Duffy, whose 1997 cult smash The Boondock Saints likely inspired the silent but deadly hit-man duo of Oil and Smoke Dresden, who are also played by Peele and Key – although one would be hard-pressed to recognize them under all that hair. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2016, Mark Burger.