“Coffee & Kareem” is the latest comedy film from Netflix. Its linchpin aspect is Ed Helms, who I’ve rarely found funny, he usually comes off as blunderous and annoying in most of his films or television shows.
It just so happens that he plays a similar type of character in this new film directed by Michael Dowse, who has some decent films in retrospect, but the screenwriter is Shane Mack (not Shane Black), who is writing a feature-length script for the first time with this film.
When 12-year-old Kareem Manning (Terrence Little Gardenhigh) hires a criminal to scare his mom’s new boyfriend — police officer James Coffee (Ed Helms) — it backfires, forcing Coffee and Kareem to team up in order to save themselves from Detroit’s most ruthless drug kingpin.
I feel as if this kind of film was already done recently with “Spenser Confidential.” The core issue with that film was the unfocused buddy-cop dynamic. However, “Coffee and Kareem” does execute the “buddy-cop” formula, but to such a precise point that it became full of tropes that have plagued the genre for decades.
This is the kind of film that needs a better sense of comedy and vision from a more confident director to really work. The comedy, to say the least, is the lowest-common-denominator of what could be construed as “funny.”
The entire film is jacked-full of potty humor, gay/sex jokes, slapstick and people screaming non-sequiturs. It’s just the worst kind of comedy that should not be intended for a younger audience, despite the premise inferring the kind of film meant for kids due to the inclusion of a 12-year-old character.
The clash of adult humor with a child-like premise is what makes the film such a head-scratcher.
It’s also the kind of film where “crazy” things happen and everything goes “CRAZY!” It’s reminiscent of Helms’ “The Hangover” films where wacky things happen to ordinary people; the type of comedy that has been tired out for a very long time. We are in a new age of comedy and the usual jokes that would have landed in the Judd Apatow comedy ten years ago, do not work well today.
The rest of the film itself is the usual buddy-cop lockstep film. Similar to “Ride Along,” you can dissect the film and go, “Okay, all the boxes are checked off.”
Two opposites with interpersonal conflicts are paired. Check.
They get in over their heads. Check.
They argue all the time. Check.
The film ends in a final shoot-out with the turncoat bad guy. Check.
It’s all there, but the way all of it is executed is blunt and juvenile down to the wacky side characters who the children are supposed to love because they’re funny, I’m sure.
There is also this odd element of social media and how it ties to the police today. Everyone is constantly recording with their phones and it leads to some very ham-fisted social commentary that piles on the heavy-handedness of the overall film.
“Coffee & Kareem” is quite the tricky puzzle in terms of who this film was targeted to. Nonetheless, there are only a number of ways to say that something just was not funny and this film just was not funny.