Fatherhood (2021) movie review
Fatherhood stars Kevin Hart as a single father trying to raise a baby girl after the sudden death of his wife. The Netflix Original film was adapted from the book by Matt Logelin and released this past weekend to a a moderate reception from critics and audiences.
Honestly, I’m not sure who the target audience is here. Kevin Hart fans that want to see him in a drama? Sure I guess, because it sure isn’t a comedy! Single dads maybe? Critics who needed something they could watch and totally comprehend while sorting through hundreds of wedding photos that they have to sort through? I don’t know why you’d think that… But while the curiosity of giving Hart another shot at dramatic work may be tempting, I assure you, few performances could have made this film memorable, let alone one from Kevin Hart.
Biggest issue with Fatherhood is that it’s been done before. We’ve had a handful of comedies and dramas about single fathers, parenting, and oddly specific comedy dramas about single parents that end up being dramas in the end. And with one or two beats difference, Fatherhood is nothing out of the ordinary. There is a fairly compelling inciting incident early on, and the mid-point of the filmm is genuinely interesting! On top of that, while the lack of originality does work against Fatherhood, it doesn’t sink the film entirely. It just doesn’t do it any favors either.
I begrudgingly admit that Kevin Hart does a pretty good job. That said, Kevin Hart is one of those actors who plays the comic so often that his dramatic work ends up feeling like an out-of-place extension of that range. I think there are performances that can break from that norm. Look at Mark Wahlberg. He has a very banter-reaction way of comedy that ended up carrying over to his performance Lone Survivor (2013) of all movies. But for some reason, his performance in Deepwater Horizon (2016) shook off that wide-eyed performance for a more grounded, dramatic turn. Honestly, I’ve yet to see that kind of performance from Kevin Hart. If you change the tone in his voice and give him dialogue that is just a tad more serious, you have the same acting as his comedy.
One thing that doesn’t help Hart is that the dramatic supporting performances from Alfre Woodard and Melody Hurd deliver standout performances. The comic performances however don’t work as well. Lil Rel Howery and Anthony Carrigan both try to very dry land comic relief, but neither work very well. Honestly this film didn’t even know what to do with Howery. Half the time he is flirting, which isn’t funny, and the other half he is trying to give a more meaningful performance to his character, which never lands.
Now the thing that could but doesn’t work is the mid-point. I guess this is a very mild spoiler, but I haven’t seen the trailer, so it might not be. Should have done my homework. Oh well. Anyway. half way through the film, Maddy does from infant to a young girl, changing the perspective of the film from a father helping raise a baby to a father learning how to help his girl grow up. This could work, but the film decides to shift focus from fatherhood to Kevin Hart falling in love and learning how to deal with the death of his wife. This betrays the story so drastically that it becomes about this character and his own arc of moving on, not learning from his mistakes. Which I should point out, were few early on. Honestly the entire first half went so smoothly for Hart that there was no way this film wasn’t going to have a wonderfully cliché happy ending, as if being a single father was the easiest thing in the world.
So while Fatherhood has some memorable moments and decent performances, the film cant settle on the tone, or even the story really. Kevin Hart gives the film a solid try for dramatic acting, but he falls short of a more grounded character, like Charlize Theron in Tully (2018). This however is in part to the lack of weight that the film throws at the audience. Aside from a dead wife and Hart’s struggle to move on, there’s not much conflict. Sure the baby cries too much. That one issue has the most focus of any one element of fatherhood that this film chooses to highlight. This could have been an impactful watch, but instead, I feel like it just puts in a mild effort at best. 5/10.
So Fatherhood? Did you watch it yet? What did you think? And what is your favorite film with this story? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review and you want to read more like it, let us know in the comments what we should talk about next!
-review by Ryan Prince