Two friends attempt to retrieve a stolen kitten by posing as a pair of drug dealers for a street gang
Director: Peter Atencio
Starring: Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Method Man, Nia Long
Genre: Comedy / Thriller
Release date: July 15, 2016
Running time: 100 mins
This big screen debut for acclaimed sketch show duo Key and Peele proves that there’s no comedy-thriller that couldn’t be immeasurably improved by the addition of an adorable kitten.
It is, admittedly, something of a one-joke movie, but it’s a great joke and the two leads have more than enough comic chemistry to see it through, aided by a witty, pop-culture savvy script and assured comedic timing from director Peter Atencio, a frequent collaborator on the leads’ TV show.
Hugely appealing comic duo
The film opens with an adorable kitten escaping a a gunfight in a drug-lab by cutely scampering out of the way of various exploding objects, falling bodies and so on.
Crossing L.A., he winds up at the door of under-achieving, recently-dumped stoner Rell (Peele), who immediately christens him ‘Keanu’ and adopts him.
However, when the kitten is stolen by drug boss Cheddar (Method Man), Rell recruits his strait-laced, family man cousin Clarence (Key) and the pair pose as street gang drug dealers (giving themselves the improvised nick-names Tectonic and Shark Tank) in the hopes of stealing back Keanu.
Key and Peele make a hugely appealing comic duo, each deploying a triple whammy of perfectly pitched line delivery, an affinity for funny voices and an array of top facial expressions, including multiple variations on “sudden panic”.
Similarly, their constant back-and-forth banter is a constant joy, whether arguing about who got beaten up by the biggest kids when they were at school or mocking each other’s resolutely middle-class voices when they’re trying to look cool in a strip club (“You sound like Richard Pryor doing an impression of a white person!”)
Fortunately, their likeable double-act is enough to sustain the momentum of that single joke, though it’s embellished along the way with a couple of amusing celebrity cameos and a sub-plot in which professional team-builder Clarence bonds with henchmen by convincing them that George Michael is a bad-ass (“And then – WHAM! – nobody ever heard from Ridgeley again…”) and showing off his appendix scar.
In addition, the witty script has fun with a number of clever film references, and there’s strong comic support from Method Man as big cheese Cheddar.
The only real problem is that the plot loses momentum after the initial set-up, while the unimaginative action sequences are limited to shoot-outs and a car chase. Similarly, considering what a world-class scene-stealer he is, Keanu himself is kept offscreen for far too long (it goes without saying that the film also has an excellent kitten-wrangler).
The plot may be paper-thin, but Key and Peele’s unbeatable comic chemistry will have you giggling throughout. And Keanu the kitten is a proper star in the making.