Netflix: Coffee and Kareem

I don’t want to see Ed Helms have sex.

This movie made me see Ed Helms having sex.

Ed Helms just prior to sex.

Coffee and Kareem sounds like a concept born out of the late 90’s script writing when Hollywood still openly referred to a certain demographic as the “urban market.” It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that Coffee and Kareem had been written around the same time as Gemini Man (1997) or in the early 2000’s and immediately thrown into the vault for later “what have we got” scenarios.

Ed Helms plays Officer Coffee, an awkward, stupid, incompetent, white cop who happens to have an attractive black girlfriend Vanessa Manning (Taraji P. Henson). Vanessa’s son Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh) is a wannabe gangster who makes sexual advances against his teacher. Kareem tries to get Coffee murdered by bringing him to the hideout of a notorious gangster, only to witness a murder making everyone a target of the gang.

I’d hesitate to call Coffee and Kareem racist, but that hesitation would last maybe ten or twenty seconds. One running gag is that nobody understands why Vanessa would want to date Coffee considering he doesn’t have any money. Coffee constantly denies accusations of being a racist by saying “I have a black girlfriend.” Kareem teaches Coffee that the best way to stop people from messing with you is to go “gay and aggressive.”

At one point Coffee and Kareem’s argument leads to a “you’re not my dad” to which Coffee responds “yea unlike your dad, I didn’t leave.” Rough, possibly racist. Also incorrect as Kareem pushes back that his dad died of cancer.┬áMost of the rest of Kareem’s jokes involve hurling accusations that Ed Helms is a pedophile and a child abductor. Terrence Gardenhigh is a great young actor and sells his role well. Taraji Henson plays the no-nonsense mother from the streets who will do anything to protect her son.

And I’ve got nothing against Ed Helms who happens to be the Hollywood equivalent of low-sodium mayonnaise; he’s not an entree onto himself and he’s not particularly tasty, but you throw him into a sandwich and he can be a useful asset. Ed Helms was fine as a correspondent on The Daily Show, playing a supporting role in The Hangover, and his numerous single-episode appearances on various TV shows. What he is not is a headliner.

For what it’s worth, the stunt work in this movie is pretty good. There is a joke that made me chuckle roughly two thirds of the way through the movie during a chase sequence on a roundabout where our characters forget who exactly is chasing who. Also David Alan Grier plays the police captain. I’m not sure what writer Shane Mack was hoping to avoid by having the big drug dealers be French Canadian.

I’m not sure who Coffee & Kareem is supposed to be advertising itself to. The concept is one that embeds itself in the PG/PG-13 range of mismatched buddy cop movies, but the content and vulgarity brings this up to just below an NC-17 (Ed Helms takes a twelve year old to a strip club).

Coffee & Kareem is a film that tries to act raunchy but only knows how to say the f-word and make jokes about child molestation. This is director Michael Dowse’s second buddy cop movie after 2019’s Stuber and seems to stitch together Stuber with 2008’s Role Models to create something that feels less edgy and more tired and uninspired.

Verdict: C-

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