‘Coffee & Kareem’ is an action-comedy film directed by Michael Dowse, that couples a want-to-be ‘5th Grade Gangster’, ‘Kareem’ (Terrence Little Gardenhigh) with an incompetent Detroit cop, ‘Coffee’ (Ed Helms). They are forced to team-up after Kareem’s failed attempt to scare Coffee away from dating his mum, ‘Vanessa’ (Taraji P. Henson).
The movie’s plot is built on the premise of Coffee attempting to build a relationship with his girlfriend’s son Kareem. However after seeing the couple enjoying some time alone in bed, Kareem attempts to hire the neighbourhood gangsters to paralyse Coffee and scare him away from his mother. When Kareem accidentally witnesses ‘Orlando Johnson’ (RonReaco Lee) and his group of gangster drug dealers murder another police officer instead of Coffee, both the boy and Coffee work together to survive. The movie struggles from this point on. Coffee is accused of kidnapping Kareem and being a ‘child molester’, which is a recurring gag that fails to stick. Coffee also sees this time on the run as an opportunity to develop the step-father and son relationship between himself and Kareem. Understandably, in an over-exaggerated comedy film such as this, character development is not as important as the attempted humour. As such, the film barely scrapes the surface of any development with Coffee’s character disregarding his morals, in order to follow the street life Kareem is adamantly trying to live.
The movie particularly struggles as a result of Dowse’s directions to Gardenhigh. Similar to Ed Helms portrayal, this wise-cracking ‘hood-life’ gangster act from a supposed fifth-grader fails miserably, as the character Kareem can only construct sentences about genitals and other crass related topics. The plot-thread of Kareem attempting to show Coffee that dirty humour is the essence of getting what you want is incredibly unbelievable, which in the end makes cringe worthy scenes that only ‘Deadpool’ could pull off. Instead of choosing to build the story with comedic beats amongst the two main characters, the filmmaker instead opts for lazy close-up shots of their faces, hoping that maximising funny facial expressions would translate to the audience. Such poor use of the comedic timing and meaning, matched then with a plot that heavily relies on segmented action scenes to drive a boring story makes for an action-comedy film that feels unworthy of either of these categories.
Coffee & Kareem attempts to use the dynamics between a white police officer and a young African American kid (with a taste for the gangster life), to create an action-comedy that ultimately fails to deliver quality jokes and perhaps isn’t worth watching till the end. At times the film does present the audience with funny scenes, but overall they are overpowered by the director’s attempts to use unnecessary genital jokes, clumsy plot development and an exaggerated amount of blood. However, if you are feeling like something to pass the time with crude jokes and some ‘gunslinging’ action, then this film is for you.
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