Netflix Review – Coffee & Kareem: Talent Can’t Overcome Script

Ed Helms stars in a film that just can’t seem to figure out who it’s for.


James Coffee (Ed Helms) is a Detroit police officer who is dating Vanessa Manning (Taraji P. Henson), a single mom of one 12-year-old son, Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh). Coffee has recently been disgraced after allowing notorious criminal Orlando Johnson (RonReaco Lee) to escape, putting him at odds with lead Detective Watts (Betty Gilpin). After Kareem sees Coffee and his mother having sex, he decides to track down Orlando Johnson and hire him to kill Coffee. He ends up witnessing Johnson’s men murder a dirty cop and is rescued by Coffee. The two end up having to work together to keep Vanessa safe and stop Johnson.

CoffeeKareem - 1Cast
Remember 48 Hours? That was a funny buddy comedy. 


So, in 1993, there was a movie called Cop and a Half starring Burt Reynolds and Norman D. Golden II about a cop working with a small child who witnessed a murder. That movie was cute, kid-friendly, sometimes funny, and had Burt Reynolds’s charm to bolster it. This film decided to go in a different direction. 

CoffeeKareem - 2CopHalf
Admittedly, parts didn’t age well.

A big problem is that this movie never clearly figured out what they were going for and it meant that you could never figure out whether you were supposed to like the characters or not. Kareem, for example, is a foul-mouthed poser who wants to front as a gangster, but is actually from Greenwich Village. Despite that, he does ACTUALLY TRY TO HAVE A COP KILLED, for which everyone kind of takes as an innocent mistake. His mother later insists that he’s just insecure and fronting, something that Kareem never admits, but at no point do they explain how Kareem could think that hiring a hitman was ever a good idea. He’s not really charming, he’s only occasionally funny, and he constantly makes things worse without appearing to undergo any character growth. Coffee, too, just isn’t likable, being either too dumb to live or, when he actually stands up for himself, being beaten back into submission. At one point he yells at Kareem about his actions, but then is forced to apologize. Apologize… to the kid who tried to have him murdered. 

CoffeeKareem - 3Cast
He does almost get him killed a lot. But not in funny ways.

Another problem is that the movie just isn’t that funny. They try to cash in on doing a lot of “edgy” jokes about pedophilia or having Kareem spout a number of swears that stand at odds with his being 12 years old, but none of them are amusing enough to merit the relative disgust that you’ll feel from the subject matter. I’m not saying that you can’t make good jokes out of the material, in fact other movies have, but these just fall flat. 

Coffee and Kareem
I admit that Ed Helms can look creepy with a mustache.

The funny thing is that you can tell that everyone is doing a solid job playing their parts. Ed Helms is really trying to sell the lines and sometimes he even succeeds, Gardenhigh gets the occasional laugh from a precision F-bomb, and RonReaco Lee has some fun moments. However, the only person who mostly nails it in the movie is Taraji P. Henson. Despite the fact that her character is basically just “stereotypical black mom in a movie after 2010,” she does usually sell the ridiculous crap coming out of her mouth. 

Overall, though, this movie was bad. Don’t waste your time.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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