Recommendation: Pretty tactless and lost at sea Coffee & Kareem isn’t the worst buddy comedy on Netflix, but it isn’t far from it.. 3.5/10.

IMDB Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Kareem Manning hires a criminal to scare his mom’s new boyfriend -police officer James Coffee – but it backfires, forcing Coffee and Kareem to team up in order to save themselves from Detroit’s most ruthless drug kingpin.

Studio comedy is in a very weird place right now. Studios are hesitant to make the mid-budget comedy (less and less are produced every year) that was so prevalent in the ’90s and early 2000s. Amid an increasingly divergent box office—go indie or go superhero—the math doesn’t work out for movies with the exception of a Game Night or Good Boys in recent years. But with Netflix and co. needing a reason to keep people watching and money burning a hole in their pockets, movies like Coffee & Kareem have a place to call home. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean Coffee & Kareem—and others like it—are any good. Despite featuring some very famous people, a profanely quippy teen, and some decent production value, C&K doesn’t know if it wants to be a sort of kid-friendly buddy comedy, streetwise adult satire, or playful action romp. A jack of all trades…

Coffee (Ed Helms) is a likable if clumsy police officer. He’s dating Vanessa Manning (Taraji P. Henson), a single mother and nurse. Vanessa’s son Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh) is a foul mouthed, wanna be gangster rapper, who is really just confused (as most teens are). Simply put, Kareem does not like his mom dating a white guy. So while Coffee wants to awkwardly connect with Kareem (as a hopeful stepdad would), Kareem is setting him up to catch a beating from some drug dealers. Of course, the duo stumble on the dealers killing a dirty cop, thus setting off a chain reaction of events that isn’t so much a movie, more like a sequence of set pieces.

As Coffee and Kareem try to save Vanessa and uncover the dirty cops in his precinct (spoiler: it’s super cop Detective Watts, played by a fantastic Betty Gilpin), they must also navigate their own relationship. Amidst kidnappings, gunfire, a cocaine brawl, and more kidnappings, the movie tries to forge a mentor-mentee relationship that feels a little hollow. And this shoehorning in of an emotional storyline is indicative of the movie’s larger issue: it fails to pick a lane or know its audience.

Marketed as a buddy comedy that leans more kid/family friendly, C&K is almost certainly not given the language (and R-rating). Yet the action isn’t gritty and the stakes are fairly low throughout, which will turn off those looking for a serious film (like, say how The Rhythm Section takes it too far in that direction). It doesn’t know what it is, in the way that other broad comedies like Keanu or The Other Guys do. That being said, there are some genuinely funny moments, and the profanity-laced Kareem is charismatic enough to not get tiresome. Overall, Coffee & Kareem would be better if it picked a lane, but it could be worse. it could be Spenser Confidential.

Find it here on Netflix.

MVP: While it’s mostly a two-hander, the MVP is Betty Gilpin as the star Detective Watts turned dirty cop. Unhinged and convincingly badass, she brings an element to the movie that no one else does: She knows it’s a joke so why not ham it up.

Highlights: Taraji P. Henson has a sequence that shows off her Proud Mary action skills. Betty Gilpin verbally destroying Ed Helms’ masculinity in an early scene. The cocaine brawl is a pretty fun scene.

Director: Michael Dowse

Studio: Netflix // Release date: April 3, 2020