Review: ‘Coffee & Kareem’ is one bitter cup of comedic joe

Taraji P. Henson, left, Terrence Little Gardenhigh and Ed Helms in the movie “Coffee & Kareem.”
Taraji P. Henson, left, Terrence Little Gardenhigh and Ed Helms in the movie “Coffee & Kareem.”
(Justina Mintz / Netflix)

Although its lame-pun title is a tip-off, it still won’t prepare you for the 88 irretrievable minutes of your life that is the barrel-bottom action-comedy “Coffee & Kareem.”

This ill-conceived, often wildly offensive picture slaps together hapless Detroit cop James Coffee (Ed Helms) with 12-year-old aspiring rapper Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh) — the over-the-top truculent, super-foul-mouthed son of James’ girlfriend, Vanessa (Taraji P. Henson) — on an absurdly contrived, crazy-violent mission to bring down a band of drug dealers.

Writer Shane Mack sets up potentially viable sources of conflict and humor but bludgeons them to death with a pandering, ham-fisted approach to such topics as interracial romance, racism, widowhood, mother-son dynamics, adolescence, obesity and police corruption.

Aside from providing the game Gardenhigh with perhaps some of the nastiest dialogue a child has had to spout on film (that director Michael Dowse calls Kareem’s language “authentic” doesn’t quite excuse it, especially within a would-be comedy), the movie is disturbingly reckless, needlessly brutal and deeply homophobic. Later attempts to wedge in a few nice moments between James and Kareem fall flat.


The performers, including Betty Gilpin as a psycho cop and RonReaco Lee as a conflicted rapper-criminal, dive into their half-baked roles with anything-goes energy, but to diminishing returns. Beware the Glenn Close joke.

'Coffee & Kareem'
Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: Available on Netflix

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