There is a montage in “ Me Time,” the new Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg Netflix comedy, where Hart’s character Sonny gets a day to himself for the first time in a long time. For years, he’s devoted himself as a stay-at-home dad to his two kids (the very cute Che Tafari and Amentii Sledge). It’s a job he takes very, very seriously, making Instagram influencer-worthy lunches and managing the home while his wife Maya (Regina Hall) is working. She’s a successful architect, we’re told, but we’ll get to that later.
Sonny has a modest vision for his day off: He wants to golf. He wants to find an underground barbeque spot. And he wants to do a few other things in private. But nothing goes the way he hoped it would. Unfortunately, his underwhelming experience is similar to that of watching the film itself. “Me Time” somehow squanders a solid premise, a stacked cast and a seemingly unlimited budget. It didn’t need to be anything great in this movie comedy drought we seem to be in. But considering who was involved, it really should be better than it is.
“Me Time” was written and directed by John Hamburg, who also did “I Love You, Man” and “Along Came Polly,” and it is as fine a premise as any to pair a standard straight man with a wild and crazy friend from his youth. In this case that friend is Huck (Wahlberg). We meet them celebrating Huck’s 29th birthday. His wild activity that year is BASE jumping, which provides a lively and promising start for the film that then comes to a complete halt. “Me Time” cuts to 15 years later and spends far too much time establishing Sonny’s home life instead of just getting him back with Huck as soon as possible.
As Huck, Wahlberg was clearly ready to go all out, including some nudity. He gets to be a high-rolling party fiend, which has its moments even though his character never really makes much sense. Hart, meanwhile, stays in his comfort zone as a slightly frazzled family man. It’s something he’s very good at, but also something we’ve seen many times before. Still, it’s nice to see both try a different comedy partner out instead of their go-to co-stars. And though the two actors seem to be having fun together, the film never really finds its lane, frenetically jumping from half-baked bit to bit, too many of which involve someone sticking something down their pants.
There’s always a bit of fantasy involved when it comes to the financial realities of characters in big Hollywood comedies. It is often used to signal a middle to upper middle-class life that is comfortable without being flashy. It is relatable and slightly aspirational and something that is just supposed to be background. Perhaps it’s just a sign of the times, when so many are struggling and housing in big cities like Los Angeles is more expensive than ever, but in “Me Time,” the wealth on display is downright distracting.)
Huck’s costly lifestyle and elaborate Kardashian-like parties turn into a bit of a plot point when a loan shark (Jimmy O. Yang) comes after him for $47,000 — which seems like a lot but also not enough for someone who shells out thousands of dollars to have a personal raw bar in the desert and a tour bus wrapped with pictures of himself. And then there’s the perplexing question of why Maya, who her billionaire client (Luis Gerardo Méndez) says is “the best architect in the world,” lives in a cookie cutter Sherman Oaks home that looks like it’s been lifted out of a 1990s sitcom. Maya is just one of the very underwritten characters at play here, and Hall definitely deserved better.
These are all quibbles that would be beside the point if this movie was consistently fun or funny, which is frustrating because you can see the possibilities here. “Me Time” just missed the mark.
“Me Time,” a Netflix release streaming Friday, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association for “brief drug use, some sexual material, language.” Running time: 104 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
MPA Definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires an accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr