The pun within Coffee & Kareem‘s title suggests a lowbrow brand of comedy – and that is, indeed, what’s on offer. What we have here is a by-the-book buddy-cop movie that fashions its premise after kid flicks of the 90s – such as Cop and a Half – and fuses it with the edgier stylings of 48 Hours. In fact, the film’s marketing campaign even featured knock-ups of famous buddy cop movies of that era.
Hot on the heels of Good Boys, Coffee & Kareem crams incessant profanity and adult humour into the mouth of a 12-year-old boy who rides shot-gun alongside a mild-mannered police officer, who also happens to be his mum’s (Taraji P. Henson) new boyfriend. When prepubescent Kareem’s (Terrence Little Gardenhigh) foolhardy plan to disgrace Coffee (Ed Helms) backfires, the two of them become embroiled in a massive drug ring and play cat-and-mouse with local gangsters.
Look, there’s no arguments that Coffee & Kareem is a run-of-the-mill affair offering nothing new. We have seen it all before in one form or another, and when it comes to the buddy cop convention, it sticks to the playbook without fault. All of the expected trappings are in place, from the investigative beats to the bad guy reveal, and at no point does the story come as a surprise.
And yet, with a perfectly measured performance from 12-year-old Little Gardenhigh, the movie also happens to be occasionally hilarious. This kid knows how to deliver a laugh and unlike the charm of Good Boys, where those characters were oblivious to their situation, Kareem knows precisely what he’s doing and the potty-mouthed smartarse acts the wannabe gangsta with great hilarity. Ed Helms plays true to type and offers another… well, Ed Helms performance. And while Helms’ entire schtick has long surpassed wearisome, he manages to counteract his co-star with a well-measured amount of good-will and naivety. Either of them acting alone would be a laborious affair, and yet together they make for a very funny partnership.
The film was directed by Michael Dowse, whose previous film Stuber practically told the same story. And while Coffee & Kareem doesn’t mount its landing quite as precisely, it does provide something of an encore for fans wanting more. Betty Gilpin (GLOW), RonReaco Lee (Nappily Ever After), Andrew Bachelor (The Babysitter) and the ever reliable and always hilarious David Alan Grier (The Big Sick) co-star and all deliver a reasonable quality of humour. Alan Grier is a comedy stalwart and his place in Coffee & Kareem is perfectly measured and might prove waggish to those who know his work well.
Of course, it’s not all roses and unlike the aforementioned Stuber, which maintained stamina, Coffee & Kareem holds up so far as the first two acts before unravelling and overstaying its welcome in the final home stretch. The third act is a hot mess, with director Michael Dowse frantically reaching for every possible gag and pulling every trick out of his hat. Expect predictable reveals, explosions, long-winded car chases and customary shoot-outs.
Nevertheless, the movie is worth a look and having debuted on Netflix it comes at a minimal cost. 88 minutes is a swift running time and even during those cumbersome final moments, there’s at least one particularly funny sequence involving a round-about. Furthermore, the timing of the movie is to its advantage. A release at any other time may have seen Coffee & Kareem sink into the depths of Netflix’s catalogue, but there’s an undeniable need for comedy right now – even if it’s of the simple and clichéd variety. Seeing as so many are holed up in isolation, this might be the type of nonsensical entertainment we all need to get our mind off things for an hour and a half. Lower your expectations and have some laughs.
SCREEN REALM SCORE: ★★★☆☆
‘Coffee & Kareem’ can be seen on Netflix, right HERE.