No one likes when their parent begins dating someone new, and Kareem Manning (Terrence Little Gardenhigh), the pint-size pseudo-policeman in the agonizingly humorless Netflix cop comedy “Coffee & Kareem,” is no exception. But his reaction to learning that his mother, Vanessa (Taraji P. Henson), is dating a loser cop (Ed Helms, who is also credited as a producer) — requesting that local drug dealers put a hit on his mom’s new boyfriend — might be considered fairly extreme. Now, that bumbling police officer, James Coffee, recently demoted to handling traffic after allowing a Detroit drug dealer (Ronreaco Lee) to get away during a sting operation, has to prove to Vanessa his worth both as a romantic partner and a possible father figure for her son. Additionally, Coffee must show that he’s more than a weak, poor, uncool white guy to the 12-year-old Kareem, who aspires to become a rapper and wears an outsized form of young braggadocio.
Kareem’s hit request goes off the rails when he and Coffee witness the dealers murder a corrupt officer, launching them into a rogue buddy cop plotline so padded with bad jokes (many of which are homophobic), aimlessly vulgar language and hackneyed plot points that it makes its 88 minutes congeal beyond a recognizable measure of time.
Directed by Michael Dowse as something like the comedic demon seed of “Good Boys” and “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Coffee and Kareem” (get it?) sees itself as a provocation. Kareem calls cops “pigs” and makes cracks about the racial dynamics between both him and Coffee, and Coffee and his mother.
The buddy cop movie genre is by all means worth interrogating as conversations around institutional racism and police brutality continue. But this film’s jabs are dull and sophomoric, as if they only began with the premise of “isn’t it wild to make a buddy cop movie in this cultural climate?” without considering the precision needed to allow the gags to be a politically challenging and thoughtful satirical tool. As it stands, this “Coffee” leaves a bitter taste.
Coffee & Kareem
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 28 minutes.