Coffee & Kareem Review

Coffee & Kareem
Cop James Coffee (Ed Helms) tries to get to know Kareem Manning (Terrence Little Gardenhigh), the mouthy 12-year-old son of the woman (Taraji P. Henson) he is dating. Yet their supposed quality time turns into life and death when Kareem tries to hire a hood to frighten Coffee away.

by Ian Freer |
Published on
Release Date:

03 Apr 2020

Original Title:

Coffee & Kareem

It’s a fun thing to do during lockdown (or any time) to create your own buddy-comedy partnership based solely on the name (Mike Nitro and Luis Glycerine — together they are Nitro-Glycerine. Louise Marks and Jane Spencer — together they are Marks & Spencer, Pat Pan and Stan Scan — together they are… you get the point). This seems to be the way that Coffee & Kareem has come into existence. Directed by Michael Dowse, who pitched odd couple Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista together in Stuber, this is a throwback to the mismatched cop duos of the ’80s, right down to title font, freeze-frame end-shot and screenwriter’s name (Shane Mack), but doesn’t capture the energy, wit and chemistry of the best of those movies. Coffee & Kareem is more instant and forgettable than artisanal and savour-worthy.

Coffee & Kareem

The set-up is simple. Ineffectual cop James Coffee (Ed Helms), a man who “jerks off to Glenn Close”, is dating single mum Vanessa Manning (Taraji P. Henson), much to the annoyance of her streetwise 12-year-old son, Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh). When Kareem looks to pay a thug (RonReaco Lee) to scare Coffee off, the pair get embroiled in escapades involving a drugs deal, bent cops and French-Canadians. But what it really is is an excuse for Coffee and Kareem to bicker in witless exchanges shot through with homophobia, visit a strip joint, scream relentlessly throughout a car chase before — of course — learning to love each other after a lengthy and dull showdown at the de rigueur steel mill.

Takes all of the bad from the '80s and little of the good.

The police chief is called Captain Walter Hill (David Alan Grier) and the film desperately wants to be 48 Hrs. (its director sharing the chief’s name), but it never finds the funny in racial tensions the way Murphy and Nolte did. Also, there is a strange disjunct between the sweary, adult nature of the comedy (you’ll lose count of the references to paedophilia) and the juvenile plot of a kid teaming up with a cop that feels like Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. The two tones never really work together.

There are some funny moments — a high-speed chase around a roundabout, some malarkey with a police radio — and tweaks to formula — a gangster (Andrew Bachelor) who is anti-guns — but most of it feels tone deaf: at one point Henson’s Vanessa berates everyone for all the offensive posturing, as if the film wants to have its cake and eat it. Helms does his beleaguered on-the-edge-man shtick, Gardenhigh gets to utter expletives but show little else — the film shares DNA with Good Boys in that it finds kids acting like adults endlessly hilarious — and Betty Gilpin channels some of the toughness she displayed in The Hunt as Coffee’s hard-as-nails superior, but generates scant giggles. The result is a surprisingly slow ’80s-style high-concept thriller that takes all of the bad from the decade and little of the good.

One’s a cop who can’t shoot straight! One’s a kid with a nose for trouble! Together… they lack the wit, thrills and rapport to deliver fun genre times.
Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us