I generally don’t go to see Kevin Hart movies because I don’t always find him too funny. Other than The Upside, I haven’t really seen any of his recent movies. But when I found out he’d be starring in a new film giving a dramatic performance for Netflix, I was interested to see what his acting skills looked like outside of his typical comedic roles. I thought he had a chance to be like Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey and tone down his wacky, over-the-top nature in favor of a more grounded and personal role. With Fatherhood, I was surprised to find that Hart is actually the movie’s strength, while it shows some weaknesses in other areas.
Hart plays the role of Matt Logelin, a man who is given the unthinkable task of raising his infant daughter after his wife died the day after giving birth. Aided by his mother, mother-in-law, and two friends, Matt goes through the day-to-day joys and struggles that any new set of parents go through, except he has to do it alone.
While Hart’s performance is nothing compared to Sandler in Punch Drunk Love or Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it does show his potential as a dramatic actor. He is never loud, yelling, or screeching like he so often is. Instead, he’s reserved and quiet, staunch and adamant in his will and desire to raise his daughter on his own instead of just giving her to her grandmother to grow up.
Sadly, the story overall doesn’t really give him a chance to actually stand out the way his potential suggests he can. For a PG-13 movie that’s attempting at least a semi-serious tone, there are 100% too many poop jokes. I would expect something like that from the 2005 Vin Diesel classic, The Pacifier, but not from the tone Fatherhood sets up in its first 15 or so minutes.
In fact, the movie’s tone is biggest problem for me, because there were unquestionably moments when I could feel myself start to get emotional. It does a good job on a few different occasions of leaning into the seriousness and heartbreaking aspects of the situation. I’m typically a fan of movies like Gifted or even Room where one person bears the responsibility of bringing up a child in a situation that’s totally out of their control. But where those movies really succeed in keeping a consistent tone, Fatherhood loses its footing a bit.
This isn’t to say the whole movie is bad, though. It has its moments that just miss the mark, but you can still feel its genuine earnestness trying to poke through. The movie is based off the memoir by the real life Matt Logelin and with a subject like this that can be so sensitive, I’m glad it wasn’t a total dumpster fire.
The story starts with Matt taking care of his daughter as a baby, but about halfway through, it jumps forward about six years to when she’s a little girl starting school. Melody Hurd, the young actress who plays Maddy at this age, has very good chemistry with Hart and it’s fun to see the two of them interact on screen. She actually is the reason why most of the emotional beats work in the second half of the movie as the film tackles themes not only of a single parent raising a child, but also of the wider society accepting kids for who they are and not inhibiting their growth as a person.
This year, it seems like Netflix’s movies have either been really good (Pieces of a Woman) or really bad (Malcolm & Marie, I Care a Lot, The Woman in the Window, Army of the Dead), so I’ve been sitting back and waiting for the releases of Don’t Look Up and Tick, Tick… Boom!. Fatherhood manages to fall right in the middle of the pack, while leaning towards the good side. It might not be good and it’s definitely not great. But it for sure is a perfectly sweet little Netflix dramedy.