Review by Camden Ferrell
Becoming a new parent is already a daunting task. Becoming a new parent after the death of your spouse is even more daunting. Fatherhood is the new movie from director Paul Weitz based on the New York Times best-selling memoir Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Matthew Logelin. Even though it is incredibly cheesy and bland at times, it’s an honest and commendable effort from Kevin Hart as a leading man.
Matt is a new father whose wife unexpectedly dies the day after their daughter is born. Now a single dad, Matt must learn how to raise his baby girl and deal with all of the challenges of being in a motherless family. This is a good premise for a story that benefits from the autobiographical nature of the source material.
The screenplay, written by Dana Stevens and Weitz, is probably some of their best work, but it is still heavily flawed. It is far too formulaic to be as effective as it could be, and it resorts to tired tropes and gags that don’t do the heartfelt source material justice.
However, the most surprising aspect of this film is the great performance delivered by Kevin Hart as Matt. This role gave him the opportunity to tread similar comedic ground like he’s done before, but it also gives him some emotional depth to work with. This may be his finest performance, and although there are problems with it, it’s a commendable performance from him.
The supporting cast, featuring Alfre Woodard and Lil Rel Howery, is decent but fairly forgettable. They are quite talented actors, and it feels like the movie could have done more to utilize their talent and charisma. It also means a lot of the burden of carrying this movie falls on Hart, and even though he does well, developing these side characters could have improved the momentum of this movie.
At nearly two hours, the movie does overstay its welcome. It has a very strong first half but eventually peters out and becomes dull in its middle section. It has a skillfully cheesy ending that lands well, but it still feels like the movie could have been twenty to thirty minutes shorter.
I enjoyed how the movie explored the long-term effects of grief on a widow, and Hart excels in these moments. It almost tried to deliver some commentary on gender roles, but it fails to explore that topic as much as it deserves. This is a simple movie that will tug on your heartstrings even if it rehashes a lot of narrative beats.
Fatherhood isn’t the gut-wrenching comedy drama it could have been, but it’s an adequately enjoyable movie that has a big heart. Hart gives his best performance in a role that sees him broadening his horizons. There are a lot of narrative flaws and problems with pacing and execution, but it is sufficient and will be a good discussion starter for families.
Fatherhood will be available on Netflix June 18.