Of the sketch shows on Comedy Central, Key and Peele did better than most in its lifetime. The duo’s comedy was a nice break between episodes of the venerable Daniel Tosh. They were not overly clever or too simple and used a good blend of absurdism and reference that spoke to me as a viewer. I found their remarks about growing up and the substitute teacher sketch very relatable. These days I do not feel much of that anymore and it was nice while it lasted. How well does Key and Peele’s style translate to the big screen in their first feature Keanu?
While going through a difficult break-up Rill, played by Jordan Peele, befriends a cat named Keanu who he becomes infatuated with. After his house is burglarized and the cat goes missing, Rill enlists the help of his cousin Clarence, played by Keegan-Michael Key, to find Keanu.
Comedies are tricky to review because they are so subjective. People have certain tastes that appeal only to them and no one else. Some think Spy is… funny and not garbage, while I think BroTeam is hilarious for his ironic nihilism. It is the nature of the beast and though I did not like Keanu, others certainly will.
The movie is basically a Key and Peele sketch stretched out to 98 minutes. It has the same basic setup of two guys struggling with their identity and learning how to behave with disastrous results. Unlike the show, there are no breaks between the duo’s shenanigans. You get these drawn out sections of a character trying to make George Michael seem like a gangster, a bad drug trip, and a weed dealer acting tough. They are very simple gags and situations that could have been funny had they flowed better and ended sooner. Instead, they drag on and on when you just want them to proceed. As a result, those 98 minutes feel like 120.
Batman v. Superman felt shorter.
My issue with the comedy is that there was no juxtaposition when this sort of concept really needed it. Using Dumb and Dumber as an example, the juxtaposition was Lloyd and Harry being out of their minds in a normal world. The comedy came from how they acted within that world. Keanu, as it turns out, has the same problem as Dumb and Dumber To.
Rill and Clarence are regular guys with flawed perceptions. They are about ordinary and safe as you can get. The story involves them going outside their comfort zones and acting like thugs to get Keanu back. Their idea of thugs is based on stereotypes they picked up from movies. Of course, real thugs are not what they seem on film, so Rill and Clarence would make fools of themselves and reveal their ignorance.
That does not happen. Instead, the thugs in question are actual movie thugs pulled from a Boyz n the Hood rip off. Rill and Clarence acting like idiots gets them exactly what they want with almost no consequence.
If you like Key and Peele and want to see their sketches in movie form, go see it. As a conventional comedy Keanu is certainly better than the ones I have seen and it is not bad by any means. I just did not find it funny.