The raunchy, new comedy “Me Time,” starring Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg, is easier to forgive for audiences than critics.
The film, which debuts on Netflix on Friday, has a screenplay credited to director John Hamburg, who also co-wrote and directed “I Love You, Man” and the surprisingly underrated “Along Came Polly” in addition to “Meet the Parents.”
Those are good credits, but “Me Time” gives the impression that Hart and Wahlberg are winging it, which can be disastrous when there isn’t a strong director in charge. Hamburg has allowed its stars to punch each other during parties without a referee.
Hart is a stand-up comedian who draws hordes of adoring fans to his stand-up shows. On the other hand, the film is a trickier business, especially when it comes to a project that blatantly reuses comic material from dozens of funnier, better movies.
Hart plays Sonny Fisher, a stay-at-home father of two who values his job just as much as his architect wife Maya (Regina Hall), who supports the family financially.
She is aware of it as well. She offers to take the kids to her in-laws during spring break so that Sonny can take a break from being Mr. Mom, PTA president and director of the school talent show.
The kids, Dashiell (Che Tafari) and Ava (Amentii Sledge) are concerned about their mother’s ability to handle household duties. “I’m worried,” Dashiell admits candidly. He is right.
When Sonny decides to contact Huck Dembo (Wahlberg), his bachelor’s best friend whom he hasn’t seen in years, the stage is set for an R-rated farce. However, the joke quickly devolves into clumsiness and disposableness.
Huck wants Sonny to attend a dessert party with some of his 22-year-old friends to celebrate his 44th birthday. This party will include sex, drugs, and rock and roll, all of which make Sonny feel sick, queasy, or both.
Sonny overindulges due to jealousy when he learns that Maya intends to spend some of her time with her sleazy eco-tycoon boss, Armando (Luis Gerardo Mendez). “Oh my God, he’s gorgeous,” he exclaims as he studies a photograph of Armando. Huck is useless.
Even when the jokes cross the line from crude to sexy, Wahlberg plays it droll and keeps up with Hart. Hart, usually the most extraordinary person in the room, is forced to play Sonny for one annoyingly zany exasperation note.
Hart is far too talented not to include a few licks. The scene transforms into hilariously terrifying when the mother lion expresses her disapproval of him holding a lion cub. On the other hand, Sporadic sight gags do not equal the wild free-for-all that everyone clearly intended.
When we learn that Huck is in debt to loan shark Stan Berman (Jimmy O. Yang), who isn’t above breaking limbs to make his point, “Me Time” means to pay a hilarious and heartfelt tribute to committed fathers everywhere, as well as to show how Huck’s immaturity wears thin quickly.
“Me Time” is a film at odds with itself because it wants to have fun while promoting family values. But, as the summer gives way to the high-profile Oscar movies of the fall, why dismiss a rambling comedy with enough laughs from Hart and Wahlberg to make it at least partially worthwhile?