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‘Me Time’ a meh time

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It should come as no surprise that when a company adopts a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach to moviemaking, the results are going to be mixed.

So it is at Netflix, where the streamer continues to churn out films at a blistering rate. Whether they’re outside purchases or in-house productions, these movies are constantly arriving. Some of them have been great, some of them have been bad and the rest exist in a massive, mushy middle.

“Me Time” is very much in the mush.

The new film, written and directed by John Hamburg and starring Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg, is a buddy comedy of sorts, one more than happy to spend 100 minutes or so randomly plucking low-hanging fruit. It’s the sort of movie that seems content to merely exist, counting on the name recognition of its stars to do the heavy lifting.

As you might imagine, this attitude doesn’t result in a good movie. Yes, there are a few laughs sprinkled throughout – however you feel about the leads, they are not without their charms – but for the most part, we spend our time laboring from point A to point B until, eventually, we land on whatever poorly-defined lesson we’re supposed to learn about the importance of family or whatever.

Sonny Fisher (Kevin Hart) is a stay-at-home dad, devoted to the care of his two kids Dashiell (Che Tafari) and Ava (Amentil Sledge) while his wife Maya (Regina Hall), a noted architect, works as the family breadwinner. Sonny’s a super-involved parent, up to and including running the school talent show, though he’s the object of some derision from other parents.

Seeing how much of himself he has given to the kids, Maya encourages Sonny to skip the family trip to visit her parents and get some “me time.” With some reluctance, Sonny agrees. However, things quickly escalate when he decides to take his childhood buddy Huck (Mark Wahlberg) up on an invitation to Huck’s multi-day birthday celebration.

Huck has a long history of over-the-top partying and Sonny gets swept up into the maelstrom, venturing out into the desert for a Burning Man knockoff with Huck and his entourage. Two discoveries – that Maya is actually spending time with a wealthy client named Armando (Luis Gerardo Mendez) and that Huck is on the hook for a lot of money with some dangerous people – lead Sonny into a chaos-fueled few days that threaten everything that he has worked so hard to build.

Hijinks, as they say, ensue.

“Me Time” is … fine? There’s not a lot going on here, to be honest, with the filmmakers counting on the comedic chemistry of their two leads to carry the load. And the truth is that there are a few stretches where it works – there are some good jokes and a couple of decent running gags – but those stretches are largely overwhelmed by the overarching mediocrity of the script and the story it tells.

It’s not that the film’s underlying conceit doesn’t work – the notion of a stay-at-home parent’s me time spiraling out of control is one with real comedic potential – but “Me Time” never really pushes beyond the surface level. And yes, obviously one does not expect much introspection from a movie with Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg leading the way, but the absolute dearth of insight feels almost deliberate.

Now, I’m not immune to the charms of broad comedy. And Hart and Wahlberg are both extremely capable of making breadth work. It just doesn’t happen here, largely because no one involved seems all that interested in telling much of a story. Apart from the central premise – Kevin Hart needs me time – it’s never clear just what is going on, or why?

As I said, there are a couple of decent bits. I laughed in a few spots, though I didn’t always feel great about it. It just all feels so slapdash, so basic – rehashed bits and scatology abound. Again, I’m not asking for Noel Coward here, but a little effort would have gone a long way here.

Hart and Wahlberg are here doing their standard-issue shticks. Hart does his usual hypervocal manic thing, while Wahlberg is a charming and slightly shady meathead. We’ve seen both of them do this before, though the two real-life friends have never brought those personas together onscreen before. Honestly, I’d have liked to see some of that real friendship shine through, because for the most part, there’s a surprising lack of genuine chemistry. The pair just grinds it out on this aimless and ultimately meandering march to an unsatisfying ending.

Regina Hall deserves better – and I mean MUCH better – than what she gets here. She’s game and does her best, but she’s mostly relegated to background noise. The kids are fine, even though each of them is even more of a non-entity than Hall. We get a couple of interesting background players – Andrew Santino as a fellow dad, Jimmy O. Yang as a loan shark – and brief appearances from woefully underutilized legends John Amos and Anna Maria Horsford, but otherwise, this film is littered with cardboard cutouts.

“Me Time” isn’t the worst movie you’re likely to see. You’ll probably be able to derive a few chuckles out of the proceedings. And we occasionally get flashes of what a movie like this could have been when Hart and Wahlberg are really cooking, but alas, those flashes are exceedingly rare.

I spent some me time watching “Me Time” … and regrettably, I’m never getting that time back.

[2 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 29 August 2022 10:18

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