There is a lot of talent available in the new Netflix comedy "Coffee and Kareem."
Unfortunately that talent is saddled in a screenplay that feels like it has been sitting on a shelf for about 30 years - and has not aged gracefully at all. It's a comedy that relies way too much on low brow, below the belt humor without trusting its talent to elevate the material.
In "Coffee and Kareem" Ed Helms stars as James Coffee, a well-meaning but bumbling police officer in Detroit who is in a budding relationship with single mom Vanessa (Tariji P. Henson).
While Coffee and Vanessa are falling in love, the relationship is complicated by her 12-year-old son Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh), who clearly doesn't want Coffee around.
Coffee tries to arrange an afternoon to get to know Kareem better, but it completely backfires when Kareem tries to hire guys to take out his new nemesis - only to inadvertently uncover a crime syndicate that leaves Coffee, Kareem, and Vanessa on the run.
"Coffee" was directed by Michael Dowse, whose previous film was the Dave Bautista, Kumail Nanjiani comedy "Stuber." Like that film this is essentially a buddy comedy with a lot of chaos and bloodshed mixed in with the laughs.
The problem here is Shane Mack's scripts have very few laughs, with most of the comedy relying way too much on crude language and no real humorous situations.
Helms is playing pretty much the same character from "The Office," while Henson is way too talented to be this underused. Gardenhigh shows promise in his feature film debut, but his character lacks the nuances needed to make this unlikely partnership work.
The cast also includes David Alan Grier as Coffee's superior and Betty Gilpin as an overly intense narcotics detective. They get more laughs out of their respective roles than the two leads, especially Gilpin - who attacks her role with delight and provides the film with its best moments.
Gilpin brings life to a comedy that never really clicks - is never as clever as it thinks it is.