PLOT Two dorky guys turn gangster to retrieve a kidnapped kitten.
CAST Keegan Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Method Man, Will Forte
RATING R (violence, language throughout, drug use and sexuality/nudity)
BOTTOM LINE The laughs comes fast and furious.
If you watched the trailer for “Keanu” — starring Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key of Comedy Central’s beloved series “Key & Peele” — and wondered “is this a real movie?” you’re not alone. In fact, it’s one of the auto-searches on Google. It’s understandable, as most know “Key & Peele” as a veritable factory of genre-bending viral sketches that engage with the tropes of Hollywood. But yes, “Keanu” is a real movie — a real funny one at that.
In “Keanu,” directed by Peter Atencio, Peele plays Rell, a hipster stoner and artist in Los Angeles suffering from a bad breakup. When a wayward kitten finds its way to his doorstep, Rell learns to love again, naming the feline Keanu. His cousin Clarence (Key) is a corporate communications executive whose wife (Nia Long) wants him to learn how to relax.
During a bachelor weekend, Rell and Clarence return from a “Liam Neesons” movie to discover that Rell’s place has been burgled, and Keanu is missing. With intel from his pot dealer/neighbor Hulka (Will Forte), the two set off on an epic cat repossession adventure, getting mixed up in the drug dealing Blip gang lead by the intimidating Cheddar (Method Man).
Much of the humor is centered around the cultural code-switching that Key and Peele are so adept in mining for humor. Their characters go from being lame, dorky guys to taking on the gangster personas of “Tectonic” and “Shark Tank.”
At the center of this wild, violent melee between warring drug gangs and assassins is Keanu the kitty, so cute that it seems absolutely worth all the trouble. Seven kittens were used to portray Keanu, and the performances of the animals are remarkable. (Actor Keanu Reeves voices the kitten.) “Keanu” is hilarious in the way you might expect from Key and Peele, but on a much larger and more grandiose level — the jokes hit harder and the scenarios are more outlandish, resulting in a legitimately epic action comedy that is at once a sendup and love letter to the genre.