Kevin Hart teams with director Paul Weitz to break away from comedy in Netflix’s Fatherhood. The film is an adaptation of Matthew Logelin’s memoir Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love. Director Paul Weitz, who co-wrote the film’s script with Dana Stevens, opens Fatherhood by introducing us to grieving mourners at a funeral. We quickly learn that the departed is Liz Logelin (Deborah Ayrorinde), the wife of Matt (Hart) and the mother to his newborn daughter, Maddy.
Fatherhood then cuts back to show us how we arrived at our opening before firmly placing us on a journey with Matt as he adjusts to being a single parent. Naturally, Matt faces opposition from his mother-in-law Marian (Alfre Woodard), who would like Matt to move back east so she and her husband (Frankie Faison) can assist with raising Maddy. While the move would also place Matt closer to his mom, it would also take him away from a thriving career.
Thankfully, Matt has a robust support system in his buddies Jordan (Lil Rel Howery) and Oscar (Anthony Carrigan), as well as an understanding boss (Paul Reiser). Matt goes through the everyday struggles that single new parents go through, but surprisingly Fatherhood’s script does not allow Hart to ever fall into his typical comedic shtick. Through the films first half, there were numerous moments where I expected a cheap joke to work its way in, but it never happens. Instead, Fatherhood shows the naturally gifted Hart flexing genuine dramatic muscle.
Hart is no stranger to drama following his performance in 2019’s well-received The Upside. However, my first recollection of Hart showing dramatic flair was in 2006’s The Last Stand. In that film, Hart has a small role as a ventriloquist who suffers a mental breakdown on stage. Mind you, Hart was already building a name for himself in the world of comedy, but with The Last Stand, I knew given the suitable material, Hart could excel in drama.
Now, I am sure the question on everyone’s mind is how does Hart do carrying a dramatic film? In the simplest of terms, a damn good job. Euripides once said, “To a father growing old, nothing is dearer than a daughter.” Hart fully embraces his role as a single parent and has great chemistry with both versions of Maddy. When Maddy turns five, naturally, gifted newcomer Melody Hurd assumes the role, and you see the beauty of being a dad on screen.
When director Paul Weitz does allow Hart to show off his comedy skills, he keeps it subdued and makes sure the timing is accurate. Weitz makes the wise choice to focus primarily on Matt and Maddy’s relationship. When Matt meets a possible new love interest, ironically named Liz (DeWanda Wise), it comes across as organic and tactful. There was a particular moment with Maddy after Matt’s first date with Swan that reminded me of myself when a single mom raised me.
The supporting cast also provides solid work. Lil Rel Howery and Anthony Carrigan garner laughs in the roles of Hart’s friends, Jordan & Oscar. In contrast, Alfre Woodard is damn good as Hart’s mother-in-law. Ironically, the script avoids turning Marian into a villain, but instead, we have a semi-layered performance of a woman who wants the best for her granddaughter. Furthermore, it is always great to see black girl magic on screen, which arrives in the form of DeWanda Wise as Matt’s love interest.
There are two things about Fatherhood that I am sure will inspire some unneeded think pieces. The first is that the real Matthew Logelin is Caucasian, and yes, Logelin did agree on changing the character’s race. The second I will not spoil, but I will say the moment occurs at the movie’s end. I did not have issues with either of these things, however.
One of my quotes is, “The only title that carries as much weight as a husband, is a dad.” With their new film Fatherhood, Kevin Hart and director Paul Weitz solidify my motto, showing the beauty of a man’s love for his child. While I doubt that Hart will win any major awards for his role, Fatherhood is the beginning of a new career for the talented comic.
Final Grade: A
Fatherhood is available to stream on Netflix tomorrow.