“Substitute Teacher.” “Obama’s Anger Translator.” “You Can Do Anything.”
If you are one of the many people who have spent many nights staying up into the wee hours of the morning watching every “Key and Peele” sketch comedy video on YouTube, then these titles are probably familiar to you.
Unfortunately, the comedy duo who had us all crying with laughter at every mispronounced name or absurd character impersonation has canceled their show and now no longer posts videos online. But the reason behind this move may give fans something to look forward to, namely, the start of what may become a series of “Key and Peele” feature films.
“Keanu,” the first feature film to star Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, looks to continue the massive success of the comedians’ online and television careers.
The movie tells the story of Rell (Peele) and Clarence (Key), two hopelessly nerdy guys just trying to get by in life without making enemies. But when Rell’s adorable kitten, Keanu, is stolen by a gang of dangerous drug dealers, the friends start on a bumbling quest to pose as the hardest of hardcore gangsters with the hope that they can save Keanu and make it out alive and without wetting themselves.
As hilarious as the premise of “Keanu” is, it is not completely original. Of course, that’s part of what makes it so funny, as the conventions of thrilling action movies are thrown into the decidedly lame lives of the two protagonists.
Nevertheless, at times it seems that some of the creativity and genius of Key and Peele’s best sketches is missing. After all, we’ve all seen comedies that place characters in unexpected situations to see how they react, only their reactions usually do not include risking their lives to save a kitten.
The script also reveals the difficulty of transitioning from sketch comedy to a feature film. In essence, the entire film is based on a single joke, so several scenes seem drawn out with unnecessary dialogue and redundant expressions.
To be sure, there are times when this tactic works to laugh-out-loud effect, as Key and Peele’s signature back-and-forth bickering produces lines that are truly priceless (“Clarence, you can’t talk like that here. You sound like Richard Pryor doing an impression of a white guy”). However, at other times, the humor subsides and the joke feels a bit worn down.
The saving grace of “Keanu” is, of course, its stars, Key and Peele, and a powerful saving grace it is. Despite the film’s minor failings, the comedy duo solidifies their reputation as modern masters of comedy, demonstrated by everything from a little quip to a high-pitched, feminine yelp. Their relatable reactions and subtle yet hilarious expressions place them among the ranks of other great comedic acts, such as Abbott and Costello or Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.
With this in mind, “Keanu” certainly accomplishes what it sets out to do: it does not try to reinvent the wheel of comedy, but it does offer the chance to see Key and Peele do their thing on the big screen. Despite the film’s “play it safe” approach, the authenticity the simple hilarity of the stars brings makes for a solid comedy worth watching.
“Keanu” is directed by Peter Atencio and stars Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Method Man, Luis Guzmán, Nia Long and Will Forte.