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You have to hand it to Kevin Hart for his prolificacy at the very least, keeping the middle-brow, upper-middle-budget studio comedy going on his own terms. After the tortured (but admittedly, quite watchable) “The Man From Toronto,” Hart—alongside Mark Wahlberg—headlines another Netflix bromance caper with “Me Time.” Think of it as a grown man’s “Risky Business,” in which a respectable Mr. Mom-type scores an unaccompanied week at home, after being a longtime stay-at-home dad in support of his successful wife’s career.
Slide in plenty of booze, poop, and masturbation jokes at your own risk. They come in hoards in “Me Time”—predictably, a few land and the rest of them don’t. Still, there is something endearing at the heart of this farce from writer/director John Hamburg, the scribe behind the popular likes of “Zoolander,” “Meet the Parents,” “Along Came Polly,” and “I Love You, Man.” Search this sometimes clunky, sometimes over-plotted story and you will find worthwhile pursuits in it. Among them are a goodhearted portrait of an unconventional heterosexual marriage where the woman is the breadwinner, a celebration of friendship, and a few genuinely funny and unexpected moments that almost make up for the painfully clumsy special effects.
Hart plays Sonny, the aforementioned Mr. Mom. Our introduction to him happens in his 20s on an extravagant and adventurous birthday trip for Huck (Wahlberg), who lives for danger and habitually spends beyond his means. We grasp that the risk-taker Huck pushes the limits of the safety-minded, comparably square Sonny—and in a good way, if their skydiving experience that rejuvenates the initially reluctant Sonny is any indication. But then we cut to years later to find Sonny having minimal contact with Huck after a series of quests together. He’s now settled as a responsible adult with his distinguished architect wife Maya (Regina Hall) and two kids for whom he’s the primary caregiver.
Credit to “Me Time” for not portraying Sonny as a “stuck and miserable” guy—the man truly enjoys (and is good at) preparing elaborate meals, eagerly presiding the PTA at his kids’ school, and being altogether a great father, while Maya sometimes struggles to recall her kids’ tastes and medical needs. And make no mistake here: “Me Time” doesn’t ever dare demonize Maya as a clichéd “cold evil career woman.” This is a movie that accepts and understands on a surprisingly efficient level that if it’s societally accepted for a successful working man to fall behind on certain parental duties guilt free, it should absolutely be that way for a woman, too.
Still, the overworked and burdened Maya feels self-conscious about the time she spends away from her family, especially on the cusp of a major deal with the idiosyncratic, tortoise-loving eco-billionaire Armando (Luis Gerardo Méndez) and the possibility of launching her own company. So Maya leaves for a countryside retreat with her kids, convincing Sonny to enjoy a free week and perhaps reconnect with Huck. Little do they know that despite having yet another lavish birthday party upcoming, Huck is now unemployed and owes major cash to murderous loan shark Stan (Jimmy O. Yang).
Armando lends the movie a few winsome laughs straight out of the Hamburg playbook, bringing to mind Hank Azaria’s scuba instructor from “Along Came Polly.” And he owns the part as a whimsically handsome and hysterically eccentric rich guy that Sonny is jealous of. How could he not be, when Maya and Armando cozily binge-watch “Bridgerton” on long flights and text each other romantic gifs from the show? Meanwhile, Huck and Sonny’s action-packed escapades range from amusing to cringey (featuring an especially poor CGI of a mountain lion), the most inspired of them including the fearlessly deadpan Uber driver Thelma (a terrific Ilia Isorelýs Paulino) who helps the duo sabotage Armando’s Topanga Canyon estate through an entertaining sequence.
“Me Time” has some structural problems that drag the story, taking too long to reintroduce Huck in the second act, and littering the overall canvas with too many side players throughout. But it comes with enough rewards nonetheless thanks to an idiosyncratic group of lovable people who just need to get a little crazy in order to survive as their true selves.
Now on Netflix.