By: Ryan Farrell, Staff Writer
Last Weekend, Netflix added another exclusive comedy feature to its streaming catalog. From director Michael Dowse comes Coffee & Kareem, a lackluster buddy cop movie with an adult sense of humor. While the cast is experienced enough, its linear and predictable story and characters make for a mediocre film.
While James Coffee, a Detroit police officer, is enjoying his new relationship with Vanessa Manning, her twelve-year-old son Kareem despises their union. In an attempt to scare Coffee away from his mother, he hires criminal thugs. This exposes an underground criminal network, which turns Coffee and Kareem into targets. In order to save Vanessa from the dangerous drug-fueled thugs, the unlikely pair must put aside their differences and take on the streets of Detroit.
The comedic style of Coffee & Kareem is simplistically juvenile. Most gags center around screaming profanity or homoerotic insults, which make this film feel dated beyond belief. This is especially true with the younger characters, who are fouler in order to juxtapose their age. As a result, the dialogue does not feel natural; it feels like an adult helplessly trying to talk like a kid. Since this is apparent with Kareem, one of the leads, it makes the film feel taxing.
While Coffee & Kareem’s cast are no strangers to the comedic genre, their performances are ultimately one-note. Since these actors have had other sufficient roles, it is reasonable to believe that this issue lies in the writing. Coffee is played by Ed Helms of The Office and The Hangover, however, this performance seems more linear. While Helms is his energetic self, the material doesn’t give a lot to work with. His comedy is limited to the fact that he swears and screams which gets old relatively quickly. Most characters in Coffee & Kareem feel one noted except for when it conveniently and predictably moves the plot along.
Coffee’s girlfriend Vanessa Manning is portrayed by Taraji P. Henson, who unlike Helms is not really bound to a genre. Even so, her character remains linear. Her main function is to be the loud authoritative mother who brings thugs cowering to their knees. This also gets old, especially because it is a comedic stereotype. Manning feels like she is on the edge of a good performance, but it loses its charm after being repeatedly presented.
To top it off, Coffee & Kareem follows the same tired story structure that most comedic films seem to rely on. Two unlikely character’s bond throughout the story, until something causes them to part ways. Each of them seem to mope until they inevitably reunite in the conclusion. This trope makes the story predictable, making the film ultimately more of a chore to watch.
Coffee & Kareem is currently streaming exclusively on Netflix.