Middle-aged men acting stupidly has sadly become a cinematic staple in an era marked by the celebration of refusing to grow up as a way of life. Any doubts that the new Netflix comedy starring Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg will buck the trend are immediately dispelled in the opening moments featuring daredevil stunts (not performed by the stars, natch) and broad pratfalls that wouldn’t have been out of place in the silent era. Sadly, Me Time doesn’t get any more sophisticated from there.
Director/screenwriter John Hamburg (Along Came Polly, I Love You, Man) has long demonstrated a delight for finding humor in strong personality differences. Such is the case with best friends Sonny (Hart), a devoted dad who stays home to take care of his two young kids while his successful architect wife Maya (Regina Hall, too good for this sort of thing) supports the family, and fun-loving, commitment-phobic Huck (Wahlberg), whose name seems mainly intended to provide the opportunity for such catchphrases as “Let’s Get Hucked Up!”
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Huck, who seems to spend most of his time planning his own elaborate birthday celebrations, finally succeeds in persuading Sonny to take some “me time” and let Maya handle the kids so he can attend Huck’s “Big 44” Burning Man-style birthday event in Death Valley. Cue the would-be hilarity as Sonny, more used to PTA meetings and school talent shows than experiencing nature, promptly gets into a life-and-death tussle with a ferocious CGI mountain lion.
That’s only one of many misadventures for the hapless Sonny, especially after he lets his jealousy get the better of him when he suspects Maya of falling under the spell of her ridiculously handsome, obscenely rich boss Armando (Luis Gerardo Mendez), who even shows up during her weekend getaway with the kids at her elderly parents’ home. (They’re played by sitcom veterans John Amos and Anna Maria Horsford, who look like they’re missing the presence of a live studio audience.)
Sonny and Huck wind up breaking into Armando’s home, where they perform such petty acts of revenge as erasing his DVR, peeing into his pool, and Sonny taking a very demure dump on his bedroom pillow (he sheepishly explains that he had already relieved himself earlier that day). They also attempt to set Armando’s giant pet tortoise free, which leads to wacky shenanigans that reflect a misguided assumption on the filmmaker’s part that Hart performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a reptile is inherently funny.
There’s nary an amusing or unpredictable moment in the film, including the revelation that Huck’s seemingly carefree life is actually in shambles and he’s deeply in hock to the least threatening loan shark ever (Jimmy O. Yang), who lets his tough-as-nails female enforcer do his dirty work for him.
The two stars have earned considerable good will from audiences over the course of their hugely successful careers. But that affection is likely to be tested with too many sub-par comic efforts such as this that familiarly trade on Hart’s live-wire exasperation and Wahlberg’s laid-back coolness (he has a nude scene early on, as if to reassure viewers that he’s lost all the weight from Father Stu) without providing anything fresh or interesting. Such in-jokes as Wahlberg’s character proudly modeling his carefree lifestyle after George Clooney (before he got married and had kids, of course) or the cameo appearance by the singer Seal, playing himself and singing, what else, “Crazy,” smack of screenwriting desperation — as does every aspect of this hopelessly formulaic star vehicle.
Production companies: Particular Pictures, HartBeat Productions
Cast: Kevin Hart, Mark Wahlberg, Regina Hall, Luis Gerardo Mendez, Jimmy O. Yang, John Amos, Anna Maria Horsford, Andrew Santino, Deborah S. Craig, Naomi Ekperigin, Drew Droege, Ilia Isorelys Paulino, Tajh Mowry, Carlo Rota, Che Tafari, Amentil Sledge
Director-screenwriter: John Hamburg
Producers: John Hamburg, Kevin Hart, Bryan Smiley
Executive producers: Lauren Hennessey, Mark Moran, Patricia Braga, Joe Gatta
Director of photography: Kris Kachikis
Production designer: Theresa Guleserian
Editor: Melissa Bretherton
Costume designer: Leesa Evan
Composer: Jeff Cardoni
Casting: Rachel Tenner
1 hour 41 minutes