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Ali Wong and Randall Park play childhood friends who reunite as adults in “Always Be My Maybe.”

Always Be My Maybe

★★★½

Rated PG-13, 101 minutes. Now playing at the Landmark Magnolia Theatre in Dallas and available on Netflix.

Netflix is just killing it, especially with their romantic comedy releases. It’s a genre I have always had a sweet tooth for and the streaming service is just cranking them out like it’s the mid-2000s again — except they’re better, more charming and inclusive.

Directed by Nahnatchka Khan (Fresh Off the Boat), Always Be My Maybe is simply a delightful little movie. It may adhere to the romantic comedy playbook — you can practically call every situation before it unfolds — but it remains a lovely experience that makes for a great evening of cuddling on the couch.

Like the 2005 film Just Friends, Always Be My Maybe follows two childhood friends (played by Ali Wong and Randall Park, who both co-wrote the film with Grimm writer Michael Golamco) who grow apart and reconnect many years later.

It’s a familiar premise, but it touches on genuine feelings. Perhaps you’ve had someone in your life who is “the one that got away,” or you feel too scared to break away from the routine you’ve carved out for yourself. The film has more going on than making you laugh and feeling all toasty inside.

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Randall Park and Ali Wong in "Always Be My Maybe" (2019).

For instance, Park’s character, Marcus, faces tragedy in his life, and the film approaches the subject in a way that truly tugs at the heartstrings. Even Marcus’ relationships ring true: His connection with his father (the great James Saito) is one of the best elements of the film. There’s a fantastic scene with his father where we catch up with Marcus years later. Marcus is dancing in front of a mirror in his bedroom while smoking a joint. All of a sudden, his dad lets himself into his room, which has you thinking: 1) he’s still living with his dad, and 2) oh no, how is his dad going to react to his son smoking pot? Marcus, in a mellow tone, asks his dad to dance with him — and he does. It produces a great laugh and has you on board with whatever the rest of the film throws at you.

Wong’s character, Sasha, is extraordinarily complex. She essentially raised herself as a child. She cooked Spam and rice for herself every night, and this has caused her to steer clear of her true feelings and desires. She finds success as a celebrity chef in Los Angeles but doesn’t develop a real bond with her fiance (Daniel Dae Kim). She chases what she thinks she wants but undergoes a life-changing experience when she meets Marcus again.

If you’re more in tune with Wong’s stand-up specials, it may surprise you that Always Be My Maybe doesn’t lean into the raunchy side of comedy. I expected it to be something on the level of Knocked Up, but it’s more dialed back and tastefully constructed. I love Wong’s stand-up specials, and I love the movie Knocked Up, but Always doesn’t write itself into a corner where it depends on jokes to make it enjoyable.

That said, the jokes are quite funny. There’s one sequence involving a cameo from a certain actor that is the highlight of the entire movie. The way it’s handled will have you giggling uncontrollably. There are also great gags involving Marcus’ rap group. He’s in a band called Hello Peril, and (as Marcus often jokes) they are a massive hit on his block with the power to sell at least seven T-shirts. Hello Peril is the hip-hop version of Mouse Rat, Chris Pratt’s character’s community-hit band from Parks and Recreation. They are an absolute joy to watch, and you will cherish the direction the filmmakers go with them.

So yeah, Always Be My Maybe is nothing spectacular or groundbreaking, but it thrives with its well-rounded characters and its sincerity. It’s so deliciously endearing that you’ll eat it up.

PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work here, on FreshFiction.tv and on RottenTomatoes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PrestonBarta.

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