TL;DR – When you can make a running tally of bad paedophile jokes and that is not the biggest problem with your film then you have some real problems.
Score – 1.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Have you ever watched a film that is filled with talented people with an interesting concept, but it fails on almost every level. Well if you haven’t, I have the film for you, which shows you that you need to pick a tone when you start rather than trying to find one in production.
So to set the scene, Officer James Coffee (Ed Helms) is going through life, and not succeeding bar the fact that he is dating Vanessa Manning (Taraji P. Henson). Well in one day Vanessa’s son Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh) found out they were sleeping together and he became the laughing stock of the police force when Orlando Johnson (RonReaco Lee) escapes from the back of his police cruiser. To get back at Coffee, Kareem sets it up so Coffee would take him to a friend’s place but instead it was to a place so he could get a beat down. Well, it all fell apart and now Kareem and Coffee are on the run.
Look there is a lot that does not work with this film, and I will get to those things in a moment, however, I don’t want this just to be me picking at a film’s flaws. That is because there are things in the film that do work. To begin with, the cast is game for everything that is going on. Indeed the few moments in the film that land, like a roundabout scene and the moment they finally let Taraji P. Henson really go for it. To add to this, the film is well shot and edited and comes together quite well on a technical level.
There are so many ways this film just does not work and the first is tone. This film cannot decide if it wants to be a heartfelt exploration of growing up and finding a family while touching on the realities of police corruption. Or if it wants to be a comedy thematically similar The Hangover one of Ed Helms previous films. Now could you make these wild swings in tone work, of course, you could, does Coffee & Kareem? Absolutely not.
Another way the film falls down is in its story, which is just frustrating. The vast majority of the conflict in this film would not happen if people would take a moment to stop and talk. Now yes the film would not work like this and that falls into the obnoxious “why don’t they call the cops” criticisms. However, it felt like the film was forcing them not to talk to each other and it became noticeable. Then there is the humour, which I know is the most subjective part of this film and is one of the reasons you can get such divergent feelings in a film like this. For me thinking back, I don’t think I actually laughed once, I think I might have smirked a couple of times but bar maybe two points in the film, nothing landed. When you can make a running tally of bad paedophile jokes and that is not the biggest problem with your film then you have some real problems
In the end, do we recommend Coffee & Kareem? Honestly, no we can’t. Look I feel bad saying that because it is clear that people cared about this film, it just did not work for me on any level. If you did happen to like Coffee & Kareem I could also recommend 6 Underground. I also just realised after writing this review that the title of the film is a pun and i just don’t know how to deal with that at this late point in time.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Coffee & Kareem
Directed by – Michael Dowse
Written by – Shane Mack
Music by – Joseph Trapanese
Cinematography by – Brian Burgoyne
Edited by – Daniel Gabbe
Production/Distribution Companies – Pacific Electric & Netflix
Starring – Ed Helms, Terrence Little Gardenhigh, Taraji P. Henson, Betty Gilpin, Andrew Bachelor, RonReaco Lee, David Alan Grier, William ‘Bigsleeps’ Stewart, Diana Bang, Serge Houde, Terry Chen, Eduard Witzke, Chance Hurstfield, Erik McNamee, Samantha Liana Cole & Ryan Robbins
Rating – Around an Australia: MA15+;