Cinema purists may be loath to admit it, but there are certain advantages to streaming a movie over going to a theater. You’re in the comfort of your own home, for example. So when you’re watching a film like “Me Time” and you feel like walking out, there’s no shame in that. You don’t have to get up and gather your things and excuse yourself in front of a crowd. You can just press a couple of buttons and watch “Bridgerton” instead.
That may sound like a burn but, to be fair, the characters in “Me Time” would also rather be watching “Bridgerton.” Fifteen minutes into this Netflix exclusive, Kevin Hart and Regina Hall, who play the married couple Sonny and Maya Fisher, get into an argument because they were supposed to watch the Netflix exclusive “Bridgerton” together. Instead, she watched it with someone else on a business trip. The sanctity of Netflix, if not necessarily marriage, must apparently be upheld.
The worst part of that situation? In what he claims was a meaningful sacrifice, Sonny Fisher didn’t watch “Bridgerton” on Netflix while his wife was away. Instead, he watched “Storage Wars,” which is currently streaming on Netflix’s adversary Peacock. “You know I can’t get that piece of my life back,” he whimpers.
The point isn’t that every part of the Netflix exclusive “Me Time” plays like an ad for Netflix. A whole lot of it does, like a scene later in the movie where Sonny and his best friend insult a rival for watching “Storage Wars” (now on Peacock) and “Blue Bloods” (now on Paramount Plus). The point is the whole film feels like filler, an empty space waiting to be padded with plot points, characters and jokes that are so generic it was incredibly easy to transform them into product placement. And not just any product placement, but product placement that’s so pointless it’s literally for a service Netflix knows you already subscribe to, because it’s the only way you could possibly be watching “Me Time.”
As for the actual story, Hart plays Sonny, a super-dad who takes care of the two children while his wife, Maya, works as a successful architect. He’s burning out from spending all his time with the kids and she’s burning out from spending no time with the kids whatsoever. She doesn’t know what their daughter Ava (Amentii Sledge) is studying in school, and he doesn’t seem to realize that their son Dashiell (Che Tafari) is no longer interested in music, but really wants to go into stand-up comedy instead. You can tell because he watches lots of Netflix exclusive comedy specials, as well as “Eddie Murphy Raw,” which is also currently on Netflix.
Sonny and Maya agree to change roles over spring break, with Maya taking a vacation from work to visit her family with the kids, and Sonny getting some much-needed “me time” at home alone. When he decides that being alone sucks and he can’t handle that, he reconnects with his old childhood friend Huck Dembo (Mark Wahlberg), who always does crazy stunts for his birthday. And whattaya know? It’s his birthday.
Before long, Sonny and Huck are in the desert and Sonny is fighting a mountain lion. Also, they run afoul of loan sharks who break Sonny’s finger and take a flamethrower to Huck’s party. Also, Sonny and Huck break into the house of a rival for Maya’s affections and vandalize it. Also, something really mean happens to a tortoise.
Writer/director John Hamburg has written and directed male bonding comedies before, including one of the best, “I Love You, Man.” But this time his film suffers from a series of muddled set-ups. Sonny apparently needs “me time” because he needs time by himself, which he gives up on immediately, as though self-care is pointless in this universe. Maya tells him he never says “no” to anything, suggesting that his character arc would revolve around learning to stand up for himself, but we also see that he’s a total tyrant at the school talent show, and has no qualms about telling children with dreams of very minor glory that they can’t hack it.
It takes a surprisingly long time to get to the meat of “Me Time,” the part where Sonny and Huck wind up on a series of comic misadventures as they challenge each other to improve themselves, growing individually and as friends. By then the film doesn’t have much real estate to work with, the characters have long since revealed themselves to be empty shells, and the film is left wide open for cinematic larceny.
Ilia Isorelýs Paulino (“The Sex Lives of College Girls”) steals the film right out from under Hart and Wahlberg, playing an Uber driver who gets swept up in their shenanigans. Whenever “Me Time” is actually funny – a rarity – it’s almost always because she’s on-screen.
There’s nothing wrong with harmless nonsense. There’s nothing wrong with occasionally wasting your time watching something generic and pleasing. But “Me Time” takes all the “fun” out of “perfunctory.” It squanders a good cast and a reasonably decent set-up in favor of blandly going through comedy motions. It’s no wonder these characters would all rather be watching “Bridgerton.” And yet there’s no way in hell any of the characters in “Bridgerton” would watch “Me Time.”
“Me Time” premieres on Netflix Aug. 26.