Some of our best comedy directors have either quit or fallen down on the job.
Todd Phillips, sensing the woke revolution would smite his funny bone, left the genre for supervillain fare like “Joker.” “Knocked Up” auteur Judd Apatow, poisoned by Trump derangement and handcuffed by wokeness, no longer brings the funny like before.
Now, it’s John Hamburg’s turn to tumble.
Hamburg’s name isn’t as well known, but his track record speaks for itself. He directed the charming “I Love You, Man” and the agreeable “Why Him?” Plus, he wrote both “Zoolander” and “Meet the Parents.”
He knows his way around a laugh. Except you wouldn’t know it watching “Me Time.”
Kevin Hart stars as Sonny, a house husband of the first order. He has everything under control while his high-powered wife Maya (Regina Hall) brings home all that bacon. Sonny loves his life until his male friends suggest it’s hardly a life worth living.
Meanwhile, Sonny’s oldest friend is itching for a reunion. That’s Huck (Mark Wahlberg), a true Peter Pan type who lives for adventure. Sonny would rather crush it on Instagram than relive his youth, Huck style.
Sonny reluctantly reunites with his old chum after Maya suggests she take the kids for a change.
What wacky high jinks will Huck inspire next? Will the film’s pedestrian first act lead to anything worthwhile? And does Hamburg have any idea where all of this is going, or why?
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“Me Time” starts with some promise. Hart’s Sonny isn’t someone we see every day on screen, a contented stay-at-home Dad whose wife worries she’s missing out on her children’s special moments. That role reversal is increasingly common in society, and it’s ripe for some observational humor.
The film delivers few laughs in the early going, but one senses a foundation being built. We’ll give it a chance. It doesn’t take long to regret that posture.
The recent “Vacation Friends” played up the party couple who drag friends into their chaos far better than anything in “Me Time.” And that Hulu original proved mediocre to the core.
Here, we get one strained sequence after another, from a turtle kidnapping to a wacky Uber driver meant to steal the film.
Spoiler Alert. There’s nothing to steal.
Hart is in his element, playing an Everyman dropped into extreme circumstances. He co-produced “Me Time,” but we’re getting to the point in his career when we wonder if he’ll ever snag a legitimately good comedy, not clunkers he elevates with his wit.
Wahlberg is game for just about anything, including a naked stroll early in the film. His character makes no sense, though, nor does much of what happens in the second and third acts.
Welcome to Huck-chella!
Me Time starring Kevin Hart, Mark Wahlberg, and Regina Hall is now on Netflix. pic.twitter.com/w4n9xq11Pi
— Netflix (@netflix) August 26, 2022
Hamburg essentially throws up his hands and starts cribbing from previous comedies. We get the Big Emotional Speech, wildly unearned. There’s a kiddie talent competition, too, something we’ve seen before.
We’re treated to a musical detour featuring a chipper cameo, but the moments add nothing to the story.
If “Me Time” has a selling point, it’s in how it doesn’t wallow in woke. Our mismatched buddies aren’t the same race, but it never comes up. They’re lifelong friends who look past skin color, and it’s refreshing.
That said, when Sonny’s young daughter asks Daddy if she has male genitals, he says no but suggests she could one day.
Even the film’s dramatic core can’t revive the story mid-film. A loan shark, played by a miscast Jimmy O. Yang, threatens Huck with a hard dose of reality.
What’s left? A comedy so devoid of purpose that you’ll think a rank amateur stood behind the camera. Instead, it’s a director who needs a refresher course on his own comedy highlights.
HiT or Miss: “Me Time” offers a crush of talented stars wallowing in material leagues beneath them.