Kevin Hart is not one to stay content with his situation—the man has ambition. Rather than be satisfied with an incredibly successful stand-up career, Hart has been on a mission to build a global brand and, so far, he’s been pretty successful. So it’s no surprise that he’s determined to conquer the world of drama as he has the world of comedy. His first attempt, The Upside, was met with mixed reviews, and in true Kevin Hart form, he’s back on that horse with the dramedy, Fatherhood.
Hart plays Matt, a man recently widowed and left to take care of his newborn daughter, Maddy (Melody Hurd). Matt’s ability to tackle single fatherhood is questioned by many — his mother-in-law (Alfre Woodard) even pleads with him to return home to Minnesota where she and his mother can help raise Maddy. Matt, of course, eventually pulls through and Maddy grows to be a well-adjusted, happy and healthy five year old.
Directed by Paul Weitz (About A Boy), Fatherhood takes us through the ups and downs of being a single parent, hitting all the waypoints that you would expect from a movie like this, with the humour you’d expect from a family-friendly version of Kevin Hart. And, for his part, Hart does a good job of stretching his acting muscles — capturing the devastation of losing a spouse and the tenderness of being a father nicely.
The chemistry between Hart and newcomer Hurd is fantastic. Their father-daughter relationship is playful and heartfelt, and it’s complemented well by the comedic performances of Lil Rel Howery and Anthony Carrigan as Matt’s buddies.
There’s no denying that Fatherhood aims to be an inoffensive crowd pleaser with a lot of input from test audiences and market researchers, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Non-animated, family-friendly films aren’t as popular as they once were and maybe it’s all the darkness in the world today talking, but it’s nice to watch a simple, feel-good movie, however predictable.
There’s also no avoiding the fact that Kevin Hart has been quietly re-building his brand following the resurfacing of old tweets using homophobic language in 2018. Hart apologized to the LGBTQ+ community and followed that by stepping down as the 2019 Oscars host. To no one’s surprise, he has since been unapologetically outspoken about cancel culture, while simultaneously refusing to back away from Hollywood.
A vehicle like Fatherhood is the perfect project for Hart in this regard, both as an actor and producer. A likeable character and a story that will pull at the heart strings and remind audiences of Hart’s real-life father status. More likely than not, Hart will overcome his detractors and continue forging a path in the film industry in comedy, action, and yes, drama.
As for the movie itself, Fatherhood is fine — it doesn’t offer anything new to the feel-good, family dramedy genre, but it has humorous and heartfelt moments that will provide audiences some entertainment on a sleepy Sunday afternoon.
Arriving just in time for Father’s Day, Fatherhood hits Netflix on June 18.