Comedy team Key and Peele's formidable TV show character stable includes a pair of excitable parking valets who are sent into fanboy frenzies when discussing movies. Their favorite action star: "Liam Neesons."
So it's fitting that Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele's first major film together finds inspiration in Liam Neeson's "Missing" flicks. Only in the Key and Peele action-comedy "Keanu," which opens April 29, the kidnap victim is a pet cat.
With "Keanu," the duo is tackling a challenge far steeper than recovering a purloined feline: They're attempting to go from movie fans to movie stars.
Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele,” which ended in September after five great seasons, showcased not only the comedians’ fanboy credentials, but their knack for mining laughs out of movie tropes. Even their strongest takes on race – their 1950s-style mini-musical, “Negrotown,” and their “Dawn of the Dead”-like portrayal of white zombies who avoid living black people – came couched in film genre spoofs.
“Keanu” offers the promising premise of Key and Peele as two regular guys who impersonate killers to get back the title cat.
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But sustaining a 90-plus-minute comedy while playing just one role each marks a departure from a half-hour multi-character show filled with punchline-driven skits. And unlike decades worth of "Saturday Night Live" stars who struck movie stardom while still on the show, Key and Peele gave up the security of a weekly TV program before taking their act to a bigger screen.
Credit the pair with quitting “Key & Peele” while they were on top to forge a film career from near scratch. It's an act of show business bravery that would do "Liam Neesons" proud.
Check out a preview of "Keanu" as Key and Peele attempt to ride to greater fame on the back of a kitty – and their own impressive talent.
Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.