There’s a reason why we term it ‘Netflix and chill’ rather than ‘Netflix and enjoy intense cinematic experiences’; the streamer’s place in the grand scheme of things is not to compete with cinema, but to provide comfort food while we are grazing, slouched on our couches, inattentively playing with our phones. So it shouldn’t be so hard to make the kind of low-brow, low-involvement fare required; a few recognisable names, a zeitgeist-y theme, a few satirical jabs, a pop-star cameo (Seal!) and lump of sentiment; these kind of films have always existed, and now they have a permanent home where such inanity is the dish of the day.
Unfortunately, John Hamburg’s new comedy for Netflix makes the heaviest weather imaginable of making lowest common denominator entertainment. Although Mark Wahlberg is largely featured in the ads, he’s got less than half the screen time of the featured player here, Kevin Hart, who brings his usual manic energy to the role of Sonny Fisher, an ordinary dad who does most of the parenting while his wife Maya (Regina Hall) is pursuing her career as an architect. Maya takes the kids off for a week, and Sonny immediately seizes the opportunity for such desirable hi-jinks as watching pornography and visiting a local strip club in order to reinforce his degrading view of the opposite sex, what a lovable shlub! And it all backfires, because one of the strippers turns out to be his kids’ babysitter! Why can’t women just stay in their lane and not confuse us blokes, right? Don’t laugh, guys, we’ve all been in such amusingly recognisable situations, haven’t we?
Nope. Things at least ascend to some kind of character comedy when Sonny’s pal Huck Dembo (Wahlberg) invites the hapless Sonny to his desert-based Burning Man rock-out-with-your c*ck-out party where Sonny’s conservative values are indeed rocked by the compulsory nudity and then being attacked by a lion. Inspired to be more of a ‘man’ by his close shave with death, Sonny and Huck decide to wreck the home of a work associate that they suspect Maya may be having an affair with, smashing up his luxury house, killing his pet and taking a dump on his bed. Those loveable scamps, what will they think of next? And finally we have the obligatory children’s talent show finale to remind us that Sonny is a good family man who just got his wires crossed a little.
Actually, the pet doesn’t die, although driving over a poor turtle in an SUV is just one of the objectionable scenes here. Otherwise, Me Time is jammed full of details that don’t compute in 2022. Given Sonny’s intense interest in strippers and porn, it would seem understandable for his wife to seek her own solace elsewhere, but Hamburg doesn’t even go there. Instead, we have Sonny upsetting Maya by using $47k of family savings to pay off Huck’s debt to a violent loan shark, which begs the question; what kind of ordinary family have that kind of money kicking around their bank account? And for Sonny’s son to be obsessive about watching Netflix stand-up specials with Tiffany Haddish seems like some kind of in-house self-promotion that curdles any enthusiasm. Me Time is dreck, a misogynist, crude, unfunny movie that even Wahlberg sending himself up can’t save. If this is the best of streaming, maybe cinema has a chance after all…