SXSW expanded their film offering quite a bit in 2016 and comedy had a lot to do with that. After the announcement of Comedy Central’s hit sketch show Key & Peele ending after five seasons, there was much anticipation as to what the stars Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele were going to do next. Well, it wasn’t long before we got our fill.
Keanu is a film that we heard about back in 2014. And now it was to come alive premiering at SXSW at a very special “Work-In-Progress” midnight screening. The buzz was rampant and the line to get in to the Paramount theater in Austin, TX even more so.
If you are unfamiliar with the premise of Keanu, here’s the breakdown. When Rell’s (Peele) beloved pet kitten “Keanu” is taken from his home, he and his friend Clarence (Key) seek out those responsible to recover the cat, only to find themselves in over their heads dealing with violent gang members. The premise on paper, already sounds hilarious. Now multiply that by a hundred.
The film embodies everything that was great about their sketch comedy show including its specific brand of silliness intertwined with their unique views on pop-culture. The cutest cat you’ve ever seen escaping a shootout in slow motion is nothing less than perfect for an opening sequence. On the journey, we discover a deep deep love for George Michael, we get Will Forte in cornrows, and a killer cast that delivers nothing but laugh after laugh. In fact, if you hold on to your laugh just a bit too long, you’ll miss then next. Pound for pound and joke for joke, Keanu is one of the best comedies in quite some time. This film will hit with the same R-rated comedy force as the original Hangover did, only this time we know it’s coming only to hit harder.
In addition to the aforementioned Key, Peele, and Forte, comedian and actress Tiffany Haddish isn’t to be overshadowed with her performance as gang member Hi-C. Haddish’s on screen chemistry and comedy chops shine bright. we’d expect nothing less from The Carmichael Show star. Rob Huebel, Luis Guzmán, and Method Man bring their identifiable personalities to the mix along with Jason Mitchell who portrayed Eazy-E in 2015’s smash Straight Outta Compton.
Just before the screening took place, both Key and Peele were brought out on stage with a mysterious black back in tow. They introduced themselves while joking that the film was a “work-in-progress”, and if the audience didn’t like it, a whole new movie would be made. They then proceeded to open the bag to reveal a dozen or so stuffed animal versions of Keanu the cat, chucking them into the audience to much delight.
The film was directed by Peter Atencio who’s credits include Key & Peele, The Last Man on Earth, and Web Soup. In an interview down at SXSW, Atencio stated, “I think the most important thing working with any performer is learning their rhythms and learning their style. We had so much history of that working on the show [Key&Peele] that there already was a comfort and familiarity there unlike any other.” Well, believe you me, it showed.
As for the Keanu himself, the role was actually played by several cats as revealed by Atencio. “The kitten playing Keanu is actually a team of cats. And they all kind of had their strengths and weaknesses. Some were better at stunts, some were better at being held, and some of them were very food motivated. We narrowed it down to two teams and decided, ‘Which is the cutest cat’ and said, ‘that’s it, it has to be in the movie!”
Warner Bros. Pictures Keanu is a can’t miss comedy which hits theaters April 29. “Kitten, please.”