‘Coffee and Kareem’ disappoints

Weak comedy undermines acting

Fair use from Netflix. James Coffee (Ed Helms) taking Kareem Manning (Terrence Little Gardenhigh) back to his home. Coffee and Kareem was released April 3.

Justina Mintz/NETFLIX

Fair use from Netflix. James Coffee (Ed Helms) taking Kareem Manning (Terrence Little Gardenhigh) back to his home. ‘Coffee and Kareem’ was released April 3.

Adam Gips

One of Netflix’s most recent original additions, “Coffee and Kareem,” came with high expectations because it was starring Ed Helms and Taraji P. Henson, but left me feeling dissatisfied. 

The story follows James Coffee (Ed Helms), a lousy inner-city Detroit cop as he develops a relationship with Vanessa Manning (Taraji P. Henson). Manning is a nurse dedicated to her son Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh), an aspiring teen rapper. However, when Kareem discovers the relationship, he vows to separate them. Kareem tries to hire a rapper to scare off Coffee, but they end up getting entangled in a circle of criminal activity.

Director Michael Dowse subtly gives its characters’ background stories throughout the film, helping the audience learn more about their histories. Dowse uses upbeat music to downplay the seriousness of gang violence within the film. There are a lot of serious scenes in this film, but Kareem lowers the severity through inappropriate jokes and messing around. 

I was expecting an engaging film since Taraji P. Henson and Ed Helms star in this action and adventure comedy. They are versatile and strong actors who were damaged by Gardenhigh’s performance. Gardenhigh brought down the movie because his teenage comedic role did not fit with the rest of the characters. He failed to show any emotion, and his jokes never sent me to a burst of laughter, as they were not relevant to the emotions shown by Henson and Helms.  

I enjoyed the plot of the movie because the action was powerful and had a captivating story. However, it was somewhat predictable and I was craving more twists. The film also left some plot holes in the story and jumped to a different plotline before covering more important information.  

Overall, I was disappointed in the movie because it included a lot of important issues like gang violence, but never seemed to address them. Dowse used comedy and cheerful music to mellow the constant violence. I would have enjoyed this film much more if the comedy was crafted and timed better, and if the writing added more shocks and surprises.

“Coffee and Kareem”: ★★☆☆☆