A Balanced Act: Our Review of ‘Coffee and Kareem’ on Netflix

Posted in Movies, Netflix, What's Streaming? by - April 03, 2020
A Balanced Act: Our Review of ‘Coffee and Kareem’ on Netflix

Crime fighting can bring some “unique” duos together…

New to Netflix today, Coffee and Kareem hits a lot of the beats that you’d expect in an action comedy of this nature making for an affably pleasant affair.  It may not exactly move the cinematic needle; it’s well meaning enough to make for a foul mouthed and funny 86 minute distraction.

While police officer James Coffee (Ed Helms) enjoys his new relationship with Vanessa Manning (Taraji P. Henson), her beloved 12-year-old son Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh) plots their break-up. Attempting to scare away his mom’s boyfriend for good, Kareem tries to hire criminal fugitives to take him out but accidentally exposes a secret network of criminal activity, making his family its latest target. To protect Vanessa, Kareem teams up with Coffee — the partner he never wanted — for a dangerous chase across Detroit.

Borrowing from the action/comedy vein from the 1980’s; Coffee and Kareem is unquestionably a little more comedy then action and even though it doesn’t quite have the wit of some of director Michael Dowse’s previous work, it’s a fun romp that manages to keep itself just above the high water mark thanks to on-screen chemistry of our title duo.

Canada’s own Michael Dowse who shot this in Vancouver, BC is a solid enough storyteller and knows not to mess around too much with any unnecessary exposition from minute one.  It’s well shot and flows well and while the script from first time feature writer Shane Mack is more than a little cookie cutter as it runs through the expected beats of the genre as dive into the story.  There’s nothing here that’s really going to challenge audiences or deviate from other films in the canon of this genre but it’s all well executed and that’s something that honestly doesn’t get appreciated enough some times.

Complying too the old adage of “Keep It Simple, Stupid” is sometimes the best way to go when telling a story and Coffee and Kareem manages that better then you’d expect because every time it does something cheap and overtly goofy it brings us back in with some genuine laughs and legitimate heartfelt moments throughout the film.

Ed Helms isn’t QUITE leading man material, but he is in things like this that are slight and ultimately pretty silly.  He has an affable everyman kind of charm about him which allows him to play the bumbling common man roles pretty well and we buy into his journey and ultimate character evolution.  It’s the kind of role that Chevy Chase used to take back in the day as he’s no one’s first choice but a more then solid back up option to carry the film.

With only a handful of credits to his name, young Terrence Little Gardenhigh shows some genuine flashes of comedic potential being the wild and unhinged comedic element next to Helms essentially playing the straight man throughout.  Taraji P Henson is under used as Kareem’s mom while Betty Gilpin tries to chew the comedic scenery around a little too hard and David Alan Grier just has nothing to do.

Ultimately, Coffee and Kareem is a little messy, a little chaotic and a little tasteless but it all adds up to just the right mix of funny.  Far from high art, but it’s just right to help eat up a lazy afternoon, something many of us have these days.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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