Movie Review: “Coffee & Kareem”

Updated on April 17, 2020
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There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Coffee & Kareem

Netflix Release: 4/3/2020
Netflix Release: 4/3/2020 | Source

Synopsis

James Coffee (Ed Helms) is a police officer in Detroit. He is the subject of a lot of ridicule in his department, as many do not take him seriously. Nonetheless, he remains a devoted cop. He has also been dating a woman named Vanessa Manning (Taraji P. Henson), and the two seem to be happy with their relationship at this point, but tensions rise as Vanessa does not think James Coffee is putting in the effort to connect with her son. Fortunately for James Coffee, Vanessa's son Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh) has asked for James Coffee to pick him up from school, which could be the chance that James Coffee needs to redeem himself.

However, Kareem has his own plan. After seeing Coffee and his mom having sex, Kareem hatches a scheme to get revenge. He plans to have a local criminal rough up Coffee, to teach the cop a lesson. This plan goes horribly wrong, however, when Kareem witnesses the criminal killing someone. This makes Kareem a target, which indirectly makes Kareem's mother a target. Coffee, now caught in the middle of it all, has to protect a kid who does not like him, but the two must also work together to keep Vanessa safe. On top of all of that, as Coffee draws closer to catching the criminal, he begins to suspect that their may be a dirty cop in the precinct.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The Pros
The Cons
Ed Helms (+5pts)
Kareem (-3pts)
The Action (+4pts)
The Comedy (-3pts)
Betty Gilpin (+3pts)
Dirty Cops (-3pts)
All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.
Source

Pro: Ed Helms (+5pts)

I liked Ed Helms in this movie. His character was one that was the subject of much ridicule, but he wanted to be a good cop. He was also a goody two shoes, and he was trying to connect with Kareem, who was a wannabe rapper. Coffee had no idea how to connect with Kareem, but he was desperate to do so.

Ed Helms played all of these elements really well. He has proven (through his roles in The Office and The Hangover), that he can play the ridiculed and embarrassed character well. He is the butt of the joke in this movie, and he played that part well. He also did a good job playing the goody two shoes who was trying to be "bad", as these scenes worked really well for me comedically. He also was believable as a cop, albeit a mostly ineffective one, and he was believable in the more vulnerable and dramatic moments, when he was trying to connect with Kareem and keep him safe. This movie was far from great, but I thought Ed Helms was one of its strengths.

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Con: Kareem (-3pts)

The foul mouth on this kid was moderately amusing at first, but the filmmakers went way overboard with it. The character was unrealistically profane, and the frequency of it quickly made it boring and unfunny. He could have been a far more entertaining character if the filmmakers used his foul mouth more sparingly. Instead, it felt like every other word out of his mouth was either profane, or was him thinking he was a badass gangster.

It could have been funny if it was not so frequent, and the character could have worked well, as his motivations were simple and understandable (although extreme). I understood why he was upset, and his method of getting revenge was one that could have worked for a comedy such as this one. Unfortunately, the filmmakers showed no amount of restraint, and the joke that was this kid's profanity and badass persona was one that was very quickly over-played. The result was Kareem being an annoying, one-note character.

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Pro: The Action (+4pts)

The action in this movie was never crazy nor was it anything that I had not seen before. The action was always typical action, but I would be lying if I said that it was not exciting enough to keep me entertained. It was typical action from an action-comedy (with car chases, explosions, and gunfights), but it was exciting enough to keep me watching. Was the action mind-blowing? Absolutely not, but it was effective enough for a movie such as this one.

The action was typical, but it was frequent. There were really no lulls in this story, as the filmmakers spread out the action pretty effectively. It made for a well-paced action-comedy, which was entertaining enough for what it was. The filmmakers knew what they had here. They did not have a compelling plot, nor did they have a laugh-out-loud comedy, so they filled the movie with decent, well-paced action that made the movie moderately entertaining.

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Pro: The Comedy (-3pts)

Unfortunately, I thought the comedy in this movie was lacking. I will put aside my issues with Kareem, as I have already gone into that in detail. However, the rest of the comedy just did not seem to land. It just always felt like it was almost funny, but it never really felt like it truly got there.

In each of the comedic moments, I kept waiting for the big punchline that would make me actually laugh, but those punchlines rarely came. Instead, I was at best only mildly amused by the comedy. At worst, the comedy fell flat, and there was a lot of that in this movie. In an action-comedy such as this movie, the comedy is a very important factor, and in this movie, the comedy left a lot to be desired. There were some amusing moments, sure, but I thought the filmmakers fell short of delivering effective comedy, and this movie felt somewhat dull as a result of that.

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Pro: Betty Gilpin (+3pts)

Betty Gilpin was not in this movie a whole lot for the first half of the movie, but she made her character memorable anyway. Her tone and the delivery of the insults her character made toward Coffee, as well as her aggressive and superior attitude toward him, made her an effective obstacle in Coffee's story. Betty Gilpin did a really great job with this stuff, and her charisma made her one of the better parts of this movie. Was her character over-the-top? Yes, but I thought it worked for this movie. In a movie filled with bland, one-dimensional characters, Betty Gilpin was a highlight, even though her character's story was pretty predictable.

Source

Con: Dirty Cops (-3pts)

Dirty cops are such an overused plot point in way too many movies, but this movie took it to a whole different level. There were predictable plot twists, generic motivations, and one-dimensional characters. A dirty cop, or a mole in an operation, can go a long way in making a story feel more suspenseful. However, when used lazily, the whole plot can suffer for it, and that happened to some extent in this movie.

In this movie, the filmmakers used this idea very lazily, and it was pretty disappointing. There were multiple predictable reveals, and the motivations for why characters did what they did were head-smackingly generic. Dirty cops are an over-played plot point in too many movies, and the filmmakers did not do anything unique with that idea to set this movie apart from all the other movies that use this idea. It made the climax of this movie feel typical, and I really think the filmmakers should have gone another way with this story.

Grading Scale

Grade
Category
Points
A+
Amazing
95-100
A-
Great
90-94
B+
Good
85-89
B-
Decent
80-84
C+
Average
75-79
C-
Watchable
70-74
D+
Bad
65-69
D-
Terrible
60-64
F
Garbage
45-59
Source

Grade: C+ (78pts)

I will be honest, I was not expecting much from this movie after seeing the trailer. It looked like a pretty average action-comedy, one that would have some decent action and moderate comedy. That was pretty much exactly what this movie was. The comedy, at its best was mildly amusing. Unfortunately, at its worst, it fell flat and seemed to miss its mark. The biggest example of this was Kareem's foul-mouth, which in moderation, could have worked really well. However, the filmmakers beat this bit into the ground, as it very quickly felt old and played-out.

The character of Kareem could have worked well if the filmmakers used his attitude and profanity sparingly, but they did not and I thought the character ended up being an annoyance as a result of that. Ed Helms worked well in the main role, hitting his comedic moments effectively, and also playing his part believably. One of the highlights, in my opinion, was Betty Gilpin as her performance of this part worked really well, but unfortunately the character did not get a ton of screen-time. The plot of this movie was typical, and the dirty cop storyline felt extremely played out and predictable. This was a movie with almost as many issues as it had strengths. It was mildly amusing at times, and kept me somewhat entertained while I was watching it, but it was not anything special.

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