The last time I saw Mark Wahlberg, he was starring in a hard-sell Catholicism movie directed by Mel Gibson’s girlfriend called Father Stu. The last time I saw Kevin Hart, he was sponsoring a combo meal at Wawa consisting of a classic hoagie with a C4 energy drink.
Mark Wahlberg and Kevin Hart both occupy some pretty weird, pretty variable space in the celebrity landscape is what I’m saying, so when I saw this poster for their latest Netflix movie, Me Time, featuring them carrying a tortoise, I wasn’t sure what to expect. (Excellent poster, by the way. Kudos to any comedy poster that leaves me intrigued, thinking “I wonder what that’s about,” rather than what most comedy posters do, which is leave me thinking “I know exactly what that’s about and now I don’t need to see it.”)
Me Time, written and directed by John Hamburg (Along Came Polly, I Love You Man, Why Him) turns out to be kind of a tweener. Most of the jokes in it seem like they’re aimed at my 9-year-old stepson (Kevin Hart slipping on a wet floor, Kevin Hart wrestling a mountain lion, Kevin Hart generally falling and yelling like he’s auditioning for the next Home Alone movie) and yet the movie is rated R, for drug use and (very) occasional swears. Most of the joke premises feel like they’re aimed at adults (broad relationship comedy in the vein of I Love You, Man and Along Came Polly) and yet the punchlines mostly won’t work on anyone over 12. There are juvenile jokes that make you feel like a kid again, and there are those that just make you feel old.
Kevin Hart plays Sonny Fisher, a hen-pecked househusband who spends his days making goji berry smoothies for his two kids, chairing the PTA, and falling down. This to support his career woman wife, played by Regina Hall, who is off being an architect and generally living the life George Costanza pretended to. But while they’re living the suburban dream in Sherman Oaks, California, Sonny’s best friend Huck Dembo is on the “George Clooney plan,” — single, hanging out with 23-year-old women and partying well into his forties.
Me Time introduces Sonny and Huck (I don’t even like typing these names) in a flashback to Huck’s 29th birthday, when Huck dragged his best pal Sonny to Moab, Utah to BASE jump/squirrel suit off a mountain. One joke is that the parachutes have Mark Wahlberg’s face on them (Huck loves branding). Another joke is that Kevin Hart hits a bird on the way down (Sonny is accident-prone and has terrible luck with animals). Are you laughing yet?
90% of the jokes in Me Time are just Kevin Hart doing an excessive act-out for a C+ bit, which will occasionally go on so long that they will, Baba Booey-like, circle around to being funny again through sheer commitment to tedium. Which I guess has sort of been Kevin Hart’s shtick all along. Wahlberg, who hasn’t done any acting since The Fighter, is mostly there to do his fast-talking, out-of-breath thing, and generally look like the kind of guy who would still be trying to smash 20-somethings into his late forties. (That casting works, presumably thanks to Mark Wahlberg’s ludicrous workout schedule of waking up at 3 am and squeezing in a half hour of golf at 7:30).
The conceit is that because Kevin Hart (Sonny) is such a committed homemaker, he never takes time to do anything for himself or has any fun (am I right, fellas??). So when he gets the invite to Huck’s 46th birthday extravaganza, his wife, and his fellow school parents urge him to go. Meanwhile, Sonny suspects his wife of having an affair with one of her clients, a billionaire tortoise enthusiast played by Mexican actor Luis Gerardo Méndez. I shan’t spoil any more of Me Time. You can probably fill in the blanks.
Me Time is a paint-by-numbers script with Kevin Hart act-outs doing most of the coloring between lines. There is one standout poop joke in the middle of the film, but mostly Hamburg seems too lazy to write good toilet jokes (which are genuinely fun for the whole family) and is content to film mediocre slapstick that’s only funny if you’re eight or have consumed eight C4 energy drinks. There’s a character arc with Sonny’s son, who wants to be a comedian even though Sonny wants him to practice the piano, that’s head-slappingly obvious from the first five minutes of the film but that Hamburg nonetheless takes the time to wrap up in a nice little painfully earnest bow.
All things considered, Me Time is the kind of middling streamer that you leave on while you’re cooking dinner or working out that you don’t need to pay much attention to in order to understand, and is good for a mild chuckle every 15 minutes or so. I can’t say it’s the best way to spend your “me time,” but it’s certainly a way.