By Richard von Busack
In something like Quentin Tarantino’s version of That Darn Cat!, Keanu’s Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele make a sublime comedy team. Key is Clarence, an anxious suburban family man in a madras shirt. He’s called up by his cousin Rell. Peele is the cuddly, furry-brained type, honoring the tradition that a good comedy team is one person trying to keep order, paired with a partner whose grip has long since gone. Rell has just been dumped by his girlfriend, who told him he wasn’t going anywhere in life. “I don’t even know what that means!” he whines through a mouthful of bong smoke.
Heaven sends Rell a stray silver tabby, scratching at his door. The cat completes him—they share milk from a saucer. Keanu the kitten is the lone survivor of a bloodbath. Two monstrous gangsters from Allentown (also Key and Peele) shot and carved up a lair full of drug-dealing rivals in the best John Woo style. After burglars strike Rell’s house, the kitty vanishes. Clues lead to a gangsta named Cheddar (Method Man). To impress this downtown criminal and his cohorts, the cousins pose as the deadly Allentowners.
Like the baby in Raising Arizona, Keanu the kitten stirs up everyone’s emotions without having any of its own. Wearing a bitty do-rag, and tiny bling around its neck, the little mite is a symbol of fragile, finer feelings threatened by the heavy boots of the urban world. Another instance of tenderness: The prelude to a thwarted kiss on a rooftop between Rell and Hi-C (Tiffany Haddish), during a fireworks party. The explosions give the would-be gangbanga PTSD after the gunfights he’s been witnessing. And Haddish, like guest-starring Anna Faris, gives this endearing trifle everything she’s got.