If Youtube has taught us anything, it’s that cute cats are guaranteed to bring in viewers. It doesn’t matter the circumstance — put an adorable kitty on the screen — and they will watch. And for further proof, please visit Exhibit A, B or C.
Add the same kitty cuteness factor with the hilarious minds of Key & Peele, and we have the fellas’ first feature film, Keanu. Written by Mr. Peele and Alex Rubens, the comedic action film also stars the duo, along with Nia Long, Method Man, Tiffany Haddish, Luis Guzman, Jason Mitchell, Will Forte and more.
Under the watchful eye of director Peter Atencio, the story revolves around two cousins Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) and Rell (Jordan Peele). In the film, the latter is going through some rough times as a grown man bachelor who just suffered a terrible heartbreak, while Clarence is struggling to keep the fire alive in his marriage to Nia Long’s character, Hannah.
“I think Hannah is just a good wife,” says Nia Long with a smile. “She wants her man to be a whole person and to believe in himself. And through this missing kitty, he finds his manhood… he grows a pair [laughs].”
Nia says she jumped at the chance to be a part of the project. “It’s Key & Peele’s first film together, so it’s something really special.” She continues, “I think in order to be as funny as they are, you have to be smart. You need to be able to pull your material from things that everybody can relate to, and I think that’s what makes them so special.”
It’s not until Peele’s character meets the true star of the movie, baby Keanu, when he finds the motivation to hop out of his slump and into a mission to save his new buddy from evildoers. “Keanu provides the heart of the piece,” says Key. “There has to be something that you are trying to get or something you are trying to achieve.”
Their main objective was to make a “date movie” that would appeal to all audiences. Finding the right combination of laughs, shoot em’ action and a slight touch of romance was an accepted challenge by the stars. “We love movies like Bad Boys, Tango & Cash, movies that have that action and that threat of death and danger, but also comedy in it, too,” describes Peele. “So the trick with this movie was making it all feel like [the movie] was all one consistent tone.”
Key shared a similar mind frame going into the film, “It’s almost in way like an “urban spy movie” because they have to be undercover. But it also hearkens back to movies like Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hours. It’s an action movie with laughs in it, if that makes any sense,” says Key.
In order for the guys to save their beloved Keanu, they’re forced to transform themselves from average Joe Shmoes to harden gangsters: Tectonic and Shark Tank. Everything from their mannerisms and speech switches to those of men usually seen on Gangland.
That’s where Straight Outta Compton star Jason Mitchell comes in. His character, Bud, is a member of the Blips gang, which Clarence and Rell have infiltrated.
“The difference with Keanu and Straight Outta Compton is that I had to know comedic timing. I had to know that I was being funny by not being funny. We had to create that world,” says Jason about his first time mixing comedy with a “gangsta” role.
But he wasn’t the only one stepping out of his comfort zone. Actor Will Forte, who admittedly says he knew zero about drug dealing and rap music when he accepted the role to play Rell’s hip-hop loving pot dealer.
“I was thinking I’m like the nerdiest dude, ‘how am I going to pull off a believable drug dealer,’ says Will Forte with a laugh. Despite a lot of the crew being freshmen to their roles, Keanu gave each star the perfect platform to shine in their respective light. There’s no over acting or forced laughs in this flick.
However, Forte admits the most painstaking part of his role was enduring the head pain from getting cornrows for the first time.
Keanu hits theaters nationwide on Friday (Apr 29). Tickets information is available here.