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SXSW: Key and Peele’s ‘Keanu’ Draws Mixed Reception at Midnight Screening

On Saturday night, South by Southwest unveiled a work-in-progress midnight showing of New Line’s “Keanu,” starring the Comedy Central duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. But while the movie was at first met with hearty laughter in Austin, audience response was more mixed by the time the end credits rolled.

Some diehard fans waited as long as three hours for a seat inside the Paramount Theatre, but at least they had a chance to take home a keepsake. Jut as the movie began at 12:40 a.m., Key and Peele took the stage and tossed out cat stuffed animals into the crowd.

This was meant as a shout-out to the film’s star, an adorable feline who arrives on the doorstep of Peele’s recently single character. But after Keanu is kidnapped, the picture turns into a traditional police caper with dangerous drug lords, undercover cops and a cameo from Anna Faris, who brought the house down playing an exaggerated version of herself a la James Franco in “This is the End.”

The comedy was at times warmly received, especially during its gag-heavy first half, but the energy inside the theater seemed to dissipate. Part of the reason may have been that the film started late—and felt later as a result of clocks being pushed back an hour, in the middle of the screening, for daylight savings time. The movie ended after 3 a.m., and the stars never returned to the stage for a Q&A. Many attendees looked groggy as they stumbled out of the Paramount.

“We have not yet turned our clocks forward because we want to lean back and have fun tonight,” Key told the audience prior to the film. Director Peter Atencio asked the audience to help spread the word about his project. “Please say good things,” he said, adding that he could still make cuts to his movie. “If you don’t like the movie, shut the f— up.”

In recent years, SXSW has had been a launching pad for studio comedies such as “Bridesmaids,” “Trainwreck” and “Knocked Up.” But the divided response on Twitter following the screening seemed to indicate “Keanu” may not earn the same acclaim as those hits. Instead, it could be more in line with “Get Hard,” the Will Ferrell-Kevin Hart picture that debuted at SXSW last year to less favorable reviews.

“Keanu” opens on April 29.

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