Pedophilia. Homosexuality. Racism. Not exactly the fodder for the world’s smartest comedy, but don’t tell Shane Mack. The first-time screenwriter thinks they’re all hilarious, and even more so (apparently) when the jokes come from the ridiculously foul mouth of a 12-year-old. Coffee & Kareem, the latest Netflix original, tries so hard to be the latest in the line of puerile comedies (à la last summer’s Good Boys) that use pre-teen mouths to offer up the most vile “jokes” you’ve ever heard, but it fails so miserably it’s not even worth the spare 90 minutes we all have during these shelter-in-place times.

Ed Helms leads the way as Officer Coffee, a black sheep in the Detroit Police Department. Not only does he sport a pornstar mustache and frustratingly by-the-book methodology, his most recent foibles include letting a local thug escape from custody in his cruiser. Meanwhile, he’s dating Vanessa (Taraji P. Henson), much to the consternation of her son Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh)—hence the eyeroll-worthy title (because Cookies & Kareem or Kareem & Sugar were too obvious?)

Kareem is somehow connected (via his grade-school friend Dom) to the Detroit underworld and decides to order a hit on his stepdad-to-be. When, though, Kareem goes to visit the aforementioned thug Orlando Johnson (RonReaco Lee, one of the film’s few bright spots), he instead manages to record a gang murder on his phone, which gets Orlando and his henchmen hot on his heels.

From there the film careens so disastrously off the rails (if it hasn’t already) that we eventually find ourselves in a seedy strip club, where Kareem (who is, yes, still 12) and Coffee have a bonding moment over drinks and naked ladies. Crooked cops, a car chase (with Kareem at the wheel naturally), and lines like “If you die on me, I’m gonna kill you!” (heh) are among the lowlights.

To their amazing credit, the entire cast (which also includes The Hunt’s excellent Betty Gilpin and also David Allen Grier) seems to have bought in to this mess, though lord knows how. Even director Michael Dowse (who helmed 2011’s vastly underrated Take Me Home Tonight as well as last year’s surprisingly-good Stuber) appears to be fully invested in the material. It’s the material itself that is the problem, though. Stupid, low-brow, and patently offensive throughout (even for those who find pedophilia and racism funny), Coffee & Kareem is a ridiculous mess that should have a hit of its own taken out on it. It’s a crime against comedy.


1.5/5 stars