REVIEW: Coffee & Kareem (2020)

Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a short review of Coffee & Kareem — Directed by Michael Dowse.

Michael Dowse’s Coffee & Kareem is an action-comedy buddy film about police officer James Coffee (played by Ed Helms) and his attempt to connect with and establish a rapport with his girlfriend’s son, Kareem (played by Terrence Little Gardenhigh), who both doesn’t trust law enforcement and is protective of his mother (played by Taraji P. Henson). While driving Kareem home from school, both Kareem and officer Coffee become involved in dangerous criminal activity and encounter dirty cops.

To be perfectly honest with you, for the longest time, I did not want to review this film. This is the kind of film that fails on almost every level. Frankly, I think this is arguably the worst work for every member of the cast. Dowse’s film may be remembered as one of the more inept films in both Ed Helms’, Betty Gilpin’s, and Taraji P. Henson’s filmographies when it is all said and done. There is virtually nowhere to go from here but up.

Michael Dowse has made a tedious and tired film. Although Coffee & Kareem only has an 88-minute runtime, it feels so much longer than that perhaps precisely because no jokes really ever land well. The buddy film premise with dirty cops as the antagonists is such a tired subgenre, and neither director Dowse nor screenwriter Shane Mack succeeds in bringing anything particularly novel to the worn-out subgenre. The titular pun is ridiculous but not so much that it is amusing, and the adult humor of the film is both unsuccessful and exhausting.

Dowse puts a lot of unneeded pressure on newcomer Terrence Little Gardenhigh’s shoulders, as, frustratingly, the film’s only type of comedy is the potential absurdity and amusement of hearing a kid use swear words and make adult and inappropriate jokes. It gets old very quickly, though, because Gardenhigh’s character is extremely irritating. Seeing young characters use swear words is nothing new, and I have seen it done much better in other films.

I don’t really blame Gardenhigh, though. I think the problem lies with the writer and the director who both should’ve reined themselves, or Gardenhigh, in when they were designing this character. Gardenhigh does try his hardest to keep up with the unusually star-studded cast, and although he fails to make his obnoxious character even moderately amusing, he does try.

Betty Gilpin (GLOW) also tries really hard to wring out some comedy from this dull film, but, like most other actors’ attempts, she fails. Ed Helms, in one of the titular roles, is on auto-pilot. He doesn’t add anything new to the film, he doesn’t make a positive impression either, he is just playing a type of character that he has played a dozen times before. However, the film’s biggest crime may be that it completely sidelines and wastes Academy Award-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson. She deserves so much better than the treatment she gets here.

Dowse has wasted his talented cast in Coffee & Kareem, and the director does nothing new with the worn-out subgenre. It is a frustratingly unfunny buddy film with so many lazy and bad vulgar jokes that the movie just becomes tiring to watch. I take no pleasure in reporting this, but this straight-to-Netflix comedy is unfunny, exhausting, and, frankly, quite irritating. Michael Dowse’s Coffee & Kareem is an action-comedy buddy film failure.

1 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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