“Coffee & Kareem” stars Ed Helms, Terrence Little Gardenhigh, Betty Gilpin, RonReaco Lee, Andrew Bachelor, David Alan Grier, and Taraji P. Henson. Released on Netflix on April 3, 2020, the film is about a police officer who teams up with his girlfriend’s son to take down a group of criminals.
The film is directed by Michael Dowse, who also directed films such as “FUBAR”, “Take Me Home Tonight”, “Goon”, and “Stuber”. We are entering yet another week in quarantine, and it surely won’t be the last. If you think that surviving a couple of weeks without any big new movies was troubling, just you wait until we get through the entire month of April. This month sees a few new movies that are making their way to Netflix, and this weekend, we will be looking at one of them. This is another film that captured my curiosity the first time I saw its trailer online a few days ago. Aside from its ridiculous title, the film’s trailer appears to have the usual “unlikely team-up” comedy shenanigans that we’re familiar with, something that Michael Dowse is known for when he helmed last year’s “Stuber”. You know, because that film also had a ridiculous title and involved two unlikely characters teaming up to defeat the bad guys. Question is, are those shenanigans enough to make this latest Netflix film watchable?
The story follows James Coffee (Helms) (yes, that’s literally his last name), a police officer who is enjoying his new relationship with single mother Vanessa Manning (Henson). However, her 12-year-old son Kareem (Gardenhigh) isn’t taking a liking to his mother’s new boyfriend. So what does he do at a time like this? Break them up, of course. While attempting to hire a bunch of fugitives to scare off Coffee, Kareem accidentally exposes a criminal conspiracy, resulting in his family being targeted. In order to protect his mother, Kareem must team up with Coffee to defeat the fugitives. It’s no surprise that the film follows the simple “unlikely team-up” buddy comedy formula that we’ve seen a dozen times before, but as usual, it’s the execution of its formula that can make or break the film. Most films that have this formula turn out to be entertaining, while others turn out to be giant piles of dinosaur droppings. “Coffee & Kareem” unfortunately falls into the latter category. The film sets up to be a comedic take on the complex “relationship” between the police and the African-American community in Detroit, but rather than taking advantage of it to provide an enjoyable and heartfelt story, it uses its theme as an excuse to churn out a bunch of stereotypical and racial jokes that quickly became lazy and repetitive after the first 20 to 30 minutes. Not even Shane Mack’s screenplay and the film’s cast were good enough to make it a “so bad, it’s good” type of film. I don’t want to say that the actors were bad in this film, but I will say that the film didn’t exactly work well for their talents, especially newcomer Terrence Little Gardenhigh. Even though Gardenhigh tried a bit too hard to make his character a likable jerk (which, in my opinion, is very challenging to do when it comes to films like this), I thought he did his best in attempting to deliver some “amusing” moments. If he decides to continue his acting career, I hope that his next appearance is something that’s worthy of his talent. As for Helms and Henson, let’s just say that if you’re a fan of over-the-top acting, you might be okay watching them go nuts every few minutes or so, and by that, I mean screaming their heads off without any sense of charm. Being loud doesn’t always equal to hilarity, people. The same can be said for Betty Gilpin, who plays Coffee’s rival Detective Watts. Pretty disappointing to see her go from killing hunters in “The Hunt” to…this. Helms still has his usual comedy schtick that he’s known for from his other comedic roles, and Henson has a very noticeable habit of playing characters that are either strict or crazy or even both. While their skills work well in their other projects, this film felt like a complete waste of their talents when it comes to the script. I find it really hard to like any of these characters onscreen because the entire thing came off as mean-spirited and foul-mouthed. A 12-year-old was dropping F-bombs left and right, for crying out loud! You can have some moments that are mean-spirited, but you also got to have characters that are worth caring about in the midst of all that so that the entire experience doesn’t get annoying rather quickly.
Overall, like its title alone, “Coffee & Kareem” is a joke. It’s more like an “embarrassing” joke rather than a “funny” joke. The plot is formulaic and lazy, the script favors repetitive adult humor over storytelling, and the chemistry between the cast lacks charisma compared to the other buddy comedies that came before it. This is another film that belongs in the Netflix garbage bin instead of the Netflix Hall of Fame, which is disappointing since I enjoyed these types of comedies. If you want to see it for yourself, it’s available to watch on the streaming service. If you happen to like this one more than I did, I humbly respect your opinion and I apologize for not enjoying it as much as you did. Hopefully I will have a much better experience with the other upcoming Netflix films this month than I did with this.