Coffee & Kareem (2020)

“I just needed something worth fighting for.”

Coffee & Kareem desperately tries over and over again to be a throwback to the buddy cop movies of yesteryear. Even in their shoestring marketing for the film, Netflix took the time to photoshop a few petty theft posters emulating the likes of Die Hard, Beverly Hills Cop, and 48 Hrs. Unlike that cream of the 80’s crop though, Coffee & Kareem takes the foul-mouthed, hateful humor from last year’s Good Boys to point of no return, and the hairiness adds up to what will surely be one of my worst movie experiences of 2020. It’s a despicable, dishonorable disservice to what comedies can and should aspire to be. At least it happened from the comfort of my home theater.

As the laughing stock of Detroit’s metropolitan police force, Officer Coffee (Ed Helms) struggles day in and day out to be taken seriously. He can be inept but isn’t incompetent either, and he’s a bit too nice for his own good. That kindness attracts Vanessa Manning (Taraji P. Henson), a hardworking nurse and single mother to Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh). He’s a teacher’s nightmare and a voluntary problem child, highly skilled in the art of faking sincerity with fingers crossed behind his back. Coffee & Kareem pits the two against each other before pairing them together in an unbelievable series of murder and maybe, making for a movie devoid of purpose and any sign of a heartbeat. I never cared about them, mostly because neither seemed to genuinely care about their temporary partner in crime.

If there’s a lone bright spot to be found in this vast, empty void masquerading around as a comedy – and that’s a MAJOR if – it’d have to be the batshit crazy and obviously crooked Detective Watts (Betty Gilpin, clearly making the most out of playing a half-baked caricature instead of a rounded character). She’s a mean, no good, terrible excuse of a human being, and she actually aligns with the bullying spirit on display throughout the entire movie. But the rest of the film doesn’t, relying on hacky, careless writing with a story that seems to go wherever the author’s dart aimlessly hits the board. Shane Mack’s script has a worthy message about separate forces bonding through solidarity, yet it gets lost in all of the pushing and shoving, in the smugness and lazy dick jokes delivered with little finesse during times of distress. I mean, how does a comedy feature David Alan Grier and give him zero opportunity to craft a laugh? That alone is a misdemeanor.

Ed Helms yells. Taraji P. Henson screams. Then Helms screams louder and Henson yells stronger. The newcomer Gardenhigh, while comedically amusing, still has to learn how to shift between gears. And I think all of that falls squarely on the shoulders of director Michael Dowse. It’s absolutely perplexing to me that he made 2019’s baffling bad Stuber (a literal concept driven comedy meant to modernize buddy cops flicks) and followed it up with…Coffee & Kareem (a carbon copy of a movie with the same airhead agenda). This film has no tone, no purpose, no audience. It’s tasteless. And you know a movie is bad when you think out loud, “this is a worse version of Cop and a Half.” Compared to that Burt Reynold’s flick, even the mustaches are less fulfilling in this Netflix streamer.

“Tone it down.”

Rating: 1 out of 5

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