Ed Helms and Terrence Little Gardenhigh star in this crass, buddy-cop-type comedy by Michael Dowse. 

Film Review: Coffee and Kareem

Film Reviews

Coffee and Kareem
Director: Michael Dowse

Pacific Electric
Streaming on Netflix 4.03

This is possibly the most important review I will ever write because it serves dual purposes: If I am ever convicted of a particularly heinous crime, my lawyer can present this as evidence that I suffered through Coffee and Kareem and warned people against watching it. It is my belief that any reasonable judge will count it toward time served.

Ed Helms (The Office, The Hangover) stars as Officer James Coffee, a bumbling Detroit cop dating a single mother, Vanessa (Taraji P. Henson), who has a loud, obnoxious 12-year-old son named Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh) who can’t seem to stay out of trouble at school. Kareem is outraged that a white cop is sleeping with his mother inside his own house, and he decides to use his connections as a stock, Hollywood black kid to get Coffee beaten up by thugs by leading him directly into their hands. But when Coffee and Kareem witness a murder, they must run for their lives together.

If you’re looking for a lowest-common-denominator comedy that is filled with constant homophobic and misogynistic referencewhy os, cheap racial stereotyping, bloody violence, graphic  gore and a determination to mine every last bit of comedy it can out of the subjects of kidnapping, child sexual abuse and anal rape … there still might be a better movie out there that fits this description. Director Michael Dowse, fresh off of the critically panned Stuber, clearly has a fondness for ’80s guns-and-wise-cracks action comedy, but his appreciation of the genre doesn’t translate into any particular skill with it. Helms is a talented actor whose presence has sadly become a red flag waving people away from watching anything he is in, but this film takes it down to a whole new level. Further, seeing Henson sinking this low is downright painful.

Kareem himself is played so broadly, as a foul, noxious cartoon hybrid of Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Coleman and Garfield that it is impossible to tell whether or not the young actor has any actual potential. Even in the rare moments when he’s supposed to show some degree of  vulnerability, the performance is still dialed up to eleven. For that, the blame should fall largely on the director and the nuance-free screenplay. Writer Shane Mack is making his feature debut, and the title of his short film The Guy Who is Fucking Your Girlfriend—along with the ghastly, labored pun title here—tells you everything you need to know about his comedic sensibilities. The script is shockingly low on anything approaching even potentially amusing situations, instead relying entirely on half-hearted shock value that rarely gets more creative than Kareem’s vulgar language, and it’s honestly quite hard to imagine who the creator’s intended target audience was.

Netflix had a truly triumphant year in 2019, proving that they are a major force in the current movie industry. But perhaps the greatest contribution they could have made to cinema would have been to release Coffee and Kareem exclusively in theaters, right now, when no one is allowed inside them. –Patrick Gibbs