Fatherhood REVIEW – Another Generic Kevin Hart Movie

Despite its title, the film never gets into what it's trying to say about fatherhood.


The moment I saw the trailer for this movie, I knew I wanted to watch it with my dad. He’s a simple man who likes to laugh, and Kevin Hart usually gets him howling with laughter, so much so that every time there is a new Kevin Hart movie, he would be all over it. My dad fell asleep while we were watching this movie, which pretty much tells you all you need to know. It’s not a disastrous movie in the way some Netflix titles can be (I’m looking at you, Secret Obsession), but it’s all over the place tonally, and the viewer remains rather detached from the narrative when we should be seeing things from Matt’s (Kevin Hart) POV.

Matt’s wife Liz (Deborah Ayorinde) dies shortly after giving birth to their daughter Maddy (Melody Hurd), and with their families back in Minnesota, Marion (Alfre Woodard) and Anna (Thedra Porter), who are Maddy’s grandmothers, ask Matt to move back there so that they can help take care of Maddy. They assure him that it’d be in his and Maddy’s best interest, but Matt’s adamant that this is their home, and is determined to do it all on his own. The thing is, Matt more or less sails through any hiccups or challenges. His boss Howard (Paul Reiser) allows him flexibility in his working arrangement, his clients are remarkably supportive when he has to run out of a presentation to calm his colicky baby, and even his love interest Swan (DeWanda Wise) is super understanding of Maddy being his priority.

The film also never allows itself to traverse too deeply into the themes of grief and death. Matt’s grief is glimpsed from time to time, but even at Liz’ funeral, you have his friends Jordan (Lil Rel Howery) and Oscar (Anthony Carrigan) making jokes, so we never get to truly feel her loss. Maddy is also extremely well-adjusted, and besides one instance in the film where we see her looking on enviously as her friend gets tucked in by her mom, she’s generally quite accepting of things.

One major obstacle encountered is Maddy not adhering to certain gender expectations, like wearing a skirt with her school uniform, or choosing underwear that young boys would wear. The school as well as Marion make Matt feel like she has such preferences because of the way he raised her, making more boyish clothing choices as she doesn’t have a mom to educate her on the way things are. This isn’t the only situation. Another instance involves Matt seeking help from a parent’s group, only to be told that the group is solely for young mothers. It seems that Matt is constantly undermined by these maternal/women figures, and his true obstacle is this matriarchy that will forever view his efforts as not good enough.

It does prop Matt up as a father figure who can do no wrong, and villainizes all the women around him. He’s never frustrated, we never see him yell at Maddy or discipline her, rather, he is always attuned to his daughter’s needs and values her sense of agency. Matt shouldn’t feel like a saint, he should feel like a father.

Fatherhood doesn’t dare venture into darker terrains, which is a shame, since it would have been interesting to see Kevin Hart take on material like that. Alas, all we end up with is a generic Kevin Hart movie, the kind you watch and forget about in a day or two.

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Fatherhood remains rather shallow in its exploration of its themes, more eager to rake in the laughs than ponder the loss.