Fatherhood is a heartbreakingly lovely comedy. It also has Kevin Hart’s very best performance.
This review of the Netflix film Fatherhood does not contain spoilers — the comedy will be released on the streaming service on June 18, 2021.
Leave it to Paul Weitz (About a Boy), a filmmaker who can occasionally find the heart in mainstream comedies, to bring Kevin Hart’s very best performance to date. His latest comedy, Fatherhood, is a heartbreakingly lovely one, in part because it packs a punch almost immediately. It has big laughs, big tears, and even bigger Hart (pun intended).
Kevin Hart plays Matt, a tech worker about to have his first child with his wife Brenda (The Bold Type’s Rachel Mutombo) after trying to delay the birth of their daughter so he could attend a fantasy football draft with his friends (played by Judas and the Black Messiah’s Lil Rel Howery and Barry’s Anthony Carrigan).
Things go bad, heartbreakingly bad, quickly from there. Matt is left with a beautiful baby girl to raise on his own. His wife’s parents (played by Clemency’s Alfre Woodard and the always welcomed Frankie Faison) want him to move back to Minnesota so he can raise his daughter with family.
Netflix’s Fatherhood is based on the 2011 memoir Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Matthew Logelin. Weitz and Dana Stevens wrote the script, and they know how to toggle the line between mainstream comedy and pathos into the film without being overtly manipulative. They bring out the best of Hart, who wisely leaves his comic characterization at home. He balances a near-perfect amount of humor and sadness in his role. It won’t win any awards, but it’s nowhere near over-the-top and is remarkably subdued.
It also has a great cast, with nice comic moments from Del Rey and one of my favorites, Carrigan. Faison did some of his best work in Weitz’s undervalued comedy Down to Earth and brought a calming presence to the film. Then there is the always terrific Woodward, playing a grieving mother who could easily become a troubling trope. And I’ll round out with Someone Great‘s DeWanda Wise, who is a breath of fresh air.
Fatherhood may not hit critical acclaim or break new ground, but it is a solid studio adaptation with the right balance by Weitz that may not be a faithful translation of Logelin’s memoir, but it’s a studio entertainment that goes down easier than most.