Kevin Hart has been criticized for doing buddy comedies that are indistinguishable from each other. If that seems unfair, here are some titles for you to browse through: Ride Along”, “Think Like A Man Too,” “Get Hard,” “Ride Along 2”, “Central Intelligence,” “Night School,” and “The Man from Toronto.” Do you remember which one features Ice Cube, Will Ferrell, or Dwayne Johnson? No. That said, it doesn’t mean that’s all what Hart does. He has showcased his dramatic acting chops in “Fatherhood” and one of the best miniseries of all time, “True Story.” But since hardly anyone logged into their Netflix accounts to watch those last two, he’s back again with a buddy comedy. This time he’s paired up with the problematic yet popular Mark Wahlberg. And, I won’t lie to you, I didn’t really mind “Me Time” despite its egregious mediocrity.
Written and directed by John Hamburg, “Me Time” starts off on a high note, literally and metaphorically. On his 29th birthday, Huck Dembo (Mark Wahlberg) takes his best friend, Sonny Fisher (Hart), for some wingsuit gliding. It goes disastrously well, and Fisher tells Huck that he’s never going to let himself be convinced by him to do anything like this again. After a time jump of over 10 years, we see that Fisher has married Maya (Regina Hall). She is an architect. He is a stay-at-home dad. They have two lovely kids, Dashiell (Che Tafari) and Ava (Amentii Sledge). Everything’s going fine until Fisher feels that Maya’s client, Armando (Luis Gerardo Méndez), is making moves on her. Since she thinks he is making a mountain out of a molehill, she tells him to go and chill out with Huck, who’s calling him to celebrate his 44th birthday. And since it’s Huck, things go downhill pretty quickly.
The ethos of the film is quite antithetical to its title. Hamburg does take a lot of time to get to the point because he’s busy talking about how characteristics like jealousy, ego, taking care of one’s family, or being career-oriented aren’t gender-specific. It depends on their upbringing, their core nature, and the position they want to take in the partnership, that is, marriage. That might be statistically untrue. But that’s what Hamburg believes is true, and he runs with it. As mentioned before, Fisher is sent away with Huck because his family and his “friends” think that he doesn’t give himself enough time. Or that he doesn’t do things that men usually do to cool off (all of which borders on adultery). Or that he’s on the verge of having a midlife crisis. In doing so, everyone (including Fisher himself) discounts the fact that maybe Fisher loves to micro-manage and appreciates his life’s mundanity.
This is established by contrasting Fisher with Huck. The latter is the kind of person who has always shirked responsibility. While that can look wild and cool, it’s not a sustainable way of living, especially if you are unable to afford it. That’s for those who are rich enough to scream “YOLO” and pump all the alcohol in the world into them. But that’s not for everyone. Even if it is, there’s a good chance that some of us prefer the peace and quiet of our lives and are okay with not experiencing everything in existence. Finiteness doesn’t mean you have to make the most of it. Finiteness means that you have to make the best of it. And one of the ways to do so is by being with your loved ones and ensuring that you all have the space to co-exist. Maybe Fisher learns this lesson a little too conveniently. However, since it’s an important lesson, I’ll give it a pass.
From a technical viewpoint, “Me Time” is passable, safe, and mellow. Everything from Jeff Cardoni’s music to Kris Kachikis’s cinematography, Melissa Bretherton’s editing, Theresa Guleserian’s production design, Erika Toth’s art direction, and Leesa Evans’s costume design is fine. Hamburg’s film kind of peaks at the beginning when Fisher runs into a mountain cat. That whole sequence has some great slapstick comedy and absolutely flawless VFX work. The interaction between Hart and the non-existent mountain lion is impeccable. After that, things plateau out all the way to the credits. Of course, this is a result of the writing, which largely revolves around “dad jokes” and safe humor. But that doesn’t mean the crew couldn’t have done something interesting with the visuals or the score or the editing or the stunts. Well, maybe Hamburg and his team know that Hart and Wahlberg’s names are going to do the magic. All they have to do is point the camera at them and let things play out.
To be honest, they aren’t wrong. Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg’s on-screen chemistry is, for the lack of a better word, explosive. They play everything so ironically that you cannot help but laugh at the innocence of their accidents and insults. But since it’s ultimately Hart’s film, he stands out way more than Wahlberg. He simply gives it his all, and that’s inspirational to watch. The introductory paragraph of this review can seem cynical about Hart’s body of work. Maybe it is. However, it’s undeniable that irrespective of the film or show he’s in, Hart never sleepwalks through his roles. His energy is infectious, and I wish it never wanes. Despite the limited nature of her role, Regina Hall is fantastic, as usual. Che Tafari and Amentii Sledge are hilarious and adorable. The rest of the supporting cast, which includes Diane Delano, Andrew Santino, Michelle DeShon, Luis Gerardo Méndez, Jimmy O. Yang, Ilia Isorelýs Paulino, Shira Gross, and Seal (as himself), are excellent.
In conclusion, “Me Time” is a perfectly watchable buddy comedy that’s aware of what it is. John Hamburg lets Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg shoulder the entire weight of the movie, and that’s exactly what they do. While many will ask Hart to do something different for a change, I will ask him to double down on it. He clearly has a solid deal with Netflix. He is evidently making a lot of money. So, why not do a “one for me, one for the action-comedy genre” thing by infusing some real action into his brand of comedy? He is free to do as many bland, safe films as he wants. But in between them, will it really hurt him to do something in the vein of “Shanghai Noon” and “Rush Hour”? I don’t think so. And now that the idea is out in the ether, it’s up to Hart to act on it.