Time-traveling romance has a spotty history (just ask HBO), but like “Groundhog Day,” that doesn’t stop variations on the theme from happening again and again. Enter “Meet Cute,” an unhelpfully-generic title for a movie most notable for pairing Kaley Cuoco and Pete Davidson, in a concept with barely enough meat for a “Black Mirror” episode, which likely explains its arrival via Peacock.
Cuoco’s Sheila approaches Davidson’s Gary in a bar, and the two spend a romantic night together getting to know each other, even if her behavior occasionally feels a bit off. That’s before she explains that she has access to a time machine (located at her local nail salon, for some reason), allowing her to travel back a day, over and over again, reliving and revising their first date.
Although Gary is understandably skeptical, he’s also irresistibly drawn to her. “We just work,” Sheila tells him, a theory that she can put to the test, over and over, altering the nature of their interaction in small and not-so-small ways and seeing how it plays out.
The formula is obviously full of potential, which explains why writers keep returning to it, from “50 First Dates” to the recent Andy Samberg movie “Palm Springs.” Yet the concept is also fraught with peril, beginning with the vaguely cruel aspect the longer the scenario drags on (even in a 90-minute movie) and the question of how to break free from the circle in some creative way, a challenge that “Meet Cute” (directed by Alex Lehmann from Noga Pnueli’s screenplay) can’t entirely overcome.
“It’s OK for things to be messy sometimes,” Sheila tells Gary, a line that possesses some significance in the larger story, but which doesn’t necessarily apply quite as well in this sort of exercise.
Having followed “The Big Bang Theory” with a breakout vehicle (for a season, anyway) in “The Flight Attendant,” Cuoco has demonstrated her chops as a producer and star, and she’s really the focus of the story. As for Davidson, he’s found no shortage of film roles, but the “Saturday Night Live” alumnus seems trapped in a different kind of loop, one that still makes him more celebrated for his off-screen relationships than his professional endeavors.
Frankly, just the marquee value of their teaming probably represents a modest win for NBC’s streaming service. That said, it would have been nice if “Meet Cute” had done a little more to capitalize on the attention, although as it stands, there’s no going back in time to fix that.
“Meet Cute” premieres September 21 on Peacock.