Written and directed by John Hamburg, "Me Time" is the latest film spawned from Kevin Hart's megadeal with streaming giant Netflix. The try-hard comedy sees Hart teaming up with Mark Wahlberg and Regina Hall for what could have been a decent weekend diversion. Instead, "Me Time" loses itself in a haze of flat jokes, predictable story beats, and one particularly cringe-worthy music number.
The bummer of it is "Me Time" starts with promise. Minus a woefully bad (and mercifully short) prologue, the first 15 minutes or so are spent introducing a really good family dynamic. But once the buddy comedy stuff takes over, the movie takes a noticeable dip. Hamburg tries to compensate in the final act, but the ending is so schmaltzy and artificial that it only compounds the film's numerous problems rather than alleviate them.
It's really hard to tell what kind of movie "Me Time" wants to be. Early on, you'd swear it was setting itself up as something for the entire family. A short time later and it's playing like a cheap raunchy comedy. The final 15 minutes are even more perplexing as Hamburg tries to mix together all his movie's multiple identities. It ends up being something that feels made for children but that isn't remotely appropriate for them.
Hart plays Sonny Fisher, a proficient stay-at-home dad who takes care of the house and the kids while his wife, Maya (the always good Hall) builds her career as an architect. Sonny is absorbed in his duties, especially when it comes to his aspiring comedian son Dash (Che Tafari) and his precocious daughter Ava (Amentii Sledge). He's always present at their school, volunteering for various functions. He's the president of the PTA, and he even has his own kindergarten blog.
While Sonny never has any time away from their kids, the hardworking Maya desperately needs some quality time with them. So they agree to let Maya take the kiddos to her parents house for spring break while Sonny enjoys some much-needed me time. And what better way to spend some time away than with his childhood friend, Huck (Wahlberg), an annoyingly spontaneous manchild who always lives in the moment. And Huck has been dogging Sonny to come to his 44th birthday bash.
The movie sours once Sonny joins Huck and his faceless band of partiers for an elaborate five-day outdoor shindig in Death Valley. "We're getting primal baby!", shouts Huck (just one of the movie's many groaner lines of dialogue). What we get is a conveyor of ludicrous scenarios, often laced with embarrassingly bad slapstick, a wide range of lazy toilet humor, and on the rarest occasion an instance of ever so slight amusement. There's also a wedged-in angle with Maya's flirty New Age boss Armando (Luis Gerardo Mendez) and an even lesser developed one involving a lone shark named Stan (Jimmy O. Yang).
The performances range from good and routine to pretty bad. Hart starts well, but as the story devolves into mush, he falls right into his normal schtick. Wahlberg's performance is pretty bad, although it's hard to put it all on him. He actually captures the character the filmmakers want him to be. Unfortunately for him, Huck is a shallow insufferable goof and there's not much Wahlberg can do to make the character (or the material) appealing. Hall is the one who gives the movie glimmers of credibility. She's such a good actress, and she does the best she can with what she's given. Oh, and I did enjoy the few scenes with John Amos playing Maya's father. He's a treat.
I admit, the prospect of "Me Time" being good wasn't high. But a guy can hope, can't he? To be honest I have a growing frustration toward movies like this -- comedies that are so beholden to formula that nearly everything they do feels old hat. They're all so canned and processed, but I guess they make money. Why else would we continue to get so many of them?