According to Netflix, this buddy cop comedy starring and produced by The Hangover’s Ed Helms is “absurd” and “irreverent”. It’s hard to argue with “absurd” given the wild implausibility of a plot which teams ineffectual police officer James Coffee (Helms) with 12-year-old Kareem Manning (Terrence Little Gardenhigh), the spectacularly potty-mouthed son of his new girlfriend Vanessa (Empire’s Taraji P. Henson). “Irreverent” is pretty accurate too, though the script by first-time screenwriter Shane Mack is sometimes so crass it’s actually kind of uncomfortable. But like the passable pun of its title, Coffee & Kareem is just funny enough to keep you watching.
Director Michael Dowse (It’s All Gone Pete Tong, Stuber) doesn’t waste much time cutting to the (literal) chase. Threatened by the cop’s relationship with his mum and freaked out after he catches them shagging, Kareem leads Coffee towards local drug dealer Orlando Johnson (First Wives Club’s RonReaco Lee) so the bad guy can teach him a lesson. It’s a move which backfires massively when Kareem witnesses Johnson’s gang committing a murder and the unlikely duo – swaggering Kareem and clumsy Coffee – become a moving target. Still, this gives Coffee an opportunity to redeem himself in the eyes of cop colleague Linda Watts (The Hunt’s Betty Gilpin), who makes him a laughing stock for allowing Johnson to escape from his police car a few scenes earlier.
Coffee & Kareem’s predictable twists involving bent cops and gangsters who aren’t as tough as they seem are reasonably entertaining, but it’s difficult to shake the suspicion that this film is fundamentally misjudged. Mack’s screenplay awkwardly infuses a Disney-ish premise – kid teams up with cop to take down bad guys! – with gross-out humour and gory action sequences that belong in a more adult story. This film certainly earns its ‘15’ rating, but though he’s played confidently by Gardenhigh, Kareem is just too young to be cracking jokes about child abuse and his teacher’s vagina. And honestly, what 12-year-old boy takes any kind of interest in his mother’s sex life?
Mack’s script also attempts to play with race, mainly by making Helms’ wimpy white guy the butt of the joke, and resorts to far too many lazy punchlines involving gay sex. Still, thanks to its watchable cast and lean 88-minute running time, Coffee & Kareem slips down easily enough, albeit with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
- Director: Michael Dowse
- Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Ed Helms, Betty Gilpin
- Release date: April 3