Keanu stars comedy duo Key & Peele (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) and is a delightfully fast-paced mash-up of 90s action films with a warm, gooey, Pixar-infused core. Directed by Peter Atencio (the silent but vital third member and secret ingredient to Key & Peele’s success), Keanu is more than just an extended skit, although it’s ninety-eight minute runtime keeps things certainly brisk and bouncy. Peele plays Rell, freshly dumped and on the brink of disaster, and Key plays Rell’s cousin Clarence, tightly-wound and unsure how to help himself when he’s so used to helping others at the expense of his own happiness. Their lives are forever changed one ‘boys’ weekend’ out when the titular kitten (dubbed Keanu) comes into their lives and then abruptly out again when cat-napped from Rell’s home in the middle of the night. So enamored by the kitten, Rell decides to set everything aside and go rescue Keanu even if it means going deep into the criminal underground to get it back. Clarence, of course comes along despite his penchant for the music of George Michael and driving a mini-van.
The duo inadvertently find themselves in the service of the 17th St. Blips, a ruthless gang ruled by Cheddar (Method Man) and a rag tag group of gang members including second in command Hi-C (Tiffany Haddish), whom is stoic and charming in equal measure. Cheddar has claimed Keanu for himself and Rell and Clarence need to prove their chops before they can get the kitten back. What ensues is a series of misadventures involving a drug deal gone wrong (featuring Anna Faris in an extended cameo as a samurai sword-wielding version of herself), a drug trip gone wrong (where Clarence ends up in a George Michael video and meeting a talking Keanu voiced by yes, Keanu Reeves), and gun battle in the middle of Mexican drug lord’s mansion (that drug lord being Luis Guzmán in a not unwelcome appearance late in the film). Through it all Rell and Clarence maintain an unyielding determination to get that darned cat back.
A lot of people I know went to go see Keanu because of the kitten and wanted to see more of it in the movie, but what the filmmakers are doing is very purposeful here. Most pet owners know the lengths they would go to rescue their dog or cat, but by playing with the tension of when and how we see Keanu, it really gives Atencio, Key, and Peele plenty of space to go wild (the car chase at the end is particularly memorable). Seriously whomever found the iconic Keanu meow should get an Oscar because the entire audience I was with all awed in unison every time it showed up (to be fair I host a cat-themed podcast so I was the perfect audience member). Heartwarming and kistchy in equal measure Keanu is ultimately about transcending your fears to fights for the ones you love (be it human or animal) and the truth that everyone loves cats. I love you Keanu.