Quarantine is in full effect, and that means new releases are at a premium. While some major studios are providing on-demand access to rent films, a majority of new movies have been delayed altogether. That puts streaming services like Netflix front and center as the go-to source for new entertainment. With all eyes on you and nothing but time, it’d be a great opportunity to roll out the best content available.
Well, let’s just hope there’s something better in store than “Coffee & Kareem.”
The end of the world actually seems like the perfect time for a raunchy, over-the-top comedy caper to lift your spirits, but “Coffee & Kareem” will do exactly the opposite. The dysfunctional, odd-couple adventure immediately exhausts itself, as it relies solely on profanity and shouting to garner any sort of laughs.
When Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh) discovers his widowed mother (Taraji P. Henson) is hooking up with a bumbling police officer (Ed Helms), the 12-year-old decides to intervene. As a wannabe tough guy and aspiring rapper Kareem turns to the streets in an attempt to take care of Officer Coffee, using his allowance to hire a murderous drug dealer to scare the cop off.
But when Kareem lures Coffee into the trap, the two accidentally uncover a drug network within the police department and witness the murder of an officer. Now, with the drug lords and the dirty cops chasing after them, Coffee and Kareem must put aside their drastic differences to unveil the corruption, clear their names and escape with their lives.
There are a number of issues with “Coffee & Kareem,” but the most pressing boils down to the simple fact that it’s just not funny. The story itself relies heavily on genre tropes, pairing Helms’s lanky, bumbling police officer character with its complete opposite in Gardenhigh – an aggressive and overweight middle school bully. Along the way, the two quarrel over anything and everything, before eventually warming up to each other and learning to co-exist. This dependency on hitting all the stereotypical marks prevents the film from adding anything new or fresh, comedically or otherwise.
Helms, known for his hilarity in “The Office” and films like “The Hangover,” doesn’t provide any of the wit or zaniness that has always led to laughs. Instead, it’s just a never-ending string of profanity as he and Gardenhigh each attempt to prove themselves the loudest.
For Gardenhigh, it’s not much better. His joke book consists of solely homophobic jokes, rape jokes, or homophobic rape jokes – not a good combination for anyone, much less a 12-year-old. The attempt at humor feels tiresome, and makes the thankfully brief 88-minute runtime drag on and on.
The supporting cast includes Henson (You’re better than this, sweetie), the painfully unfunny Vine-star-turned-actor Andrew Bachelor, and Betty Gilpin as the PC-hating police chief who might as well have “Bad Guy” written across her forehead.
Tweens cursing like sailors is nothing new. It’s been done before and done well – just check out last year’s “Good Boys” – but in order to not wear thin, there has to be something other than pint-sized F-bombs to sustain a film. Unfortunately, that’s all there is to “Coffee & Kareem.”
Desperate times call for desperate measures, but not this desperate. If you’re dying to check out a new release, it’s worth paying $20 just to not watch this one.
Star Rating: .5 out of 5
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Raleigh, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.