Ed Helms stars in new Netflix comedy Coffee & Kareem, playing a cop who’s disliked by his new girlfriend’s 12-year-old son. The kid and cop are forced to team up after the youngster’s plan to get rid of his mum’s new beau—by hiring a criminal to scare him off—goes awry. So far, so good, but as Daniel Rutledge observes, comedy lives or dies on the strength of its jokes and unfortunately, Coffee & Kareem just isn’t funny enough.
A modern take on ’80s buddy cop films with a wonderfully endearing cast and a hard R rating made for digital release sounds bloody brilliant, doesn’t it? What a shame the result is so sub-par. Michael Dowse’s follow-up to last year’s Stuber is more of the same, but of a lower quality.
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The storyline is a more than adequate canvas on which great comedy could’ve been painted with action elements that are definitely fun enough. Making the two mismatched crime fighting buddies a teen son and step-dad to be who hate each other was a great move, too. But a comedy lives or dies on the strength of its jokes and unfortunately, Coffee & Kareem just isn’t funny enough.
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Of course having a white cop working with (and against) people of colour means there’s plenty of room for racial humour and hoo boy do they milk that for all it’s worth, and then some. And then some more. Some of it lands, most of it doesn’t—I definitely cringed more often than I giggled. Some gags are painstakingly constructed even when the punchline is dead obvious from the get-go, then they hit even softer than you expected, which is one of the worst forms of bad comedy. One should also avoid this altogether if they don’t want to hear schoolboy humour of the homophobic variety or a 12-year-old actor joking about child rape or the first time he “blew my nose of out my dick”.
For others, that stuff may have a so-wrong-it’s-right appeal that somewhat makes up for the comedic mediocrity. And there are definitely things to enjoy. David Alan Grier has a tiny role but provides one of the funniest moments. There are some crazy bits of unexpected subversive weirdness here and there, often involving violence, and some of the movie references are quite pleasing. But this could’ve been so much better than the forgettable, somewhat annoying film it ended up as.