Released to Netflix for Fathers Day weekend, Fatherhood starring well known comedian, Kevin Hart (Ride Along, Central Intelligence), has been a pleasant surprise for viewers thinking Hart would be more likely to star in a slapstick comedy of errors about a bumbling father than a thoughtful introspective about the beautiful bond between father and child. Father-child dynamics are thoroughly explored in film and television but Fatherhood stands out for many reasons. Are any of them good enough for you to watch? The Conservative Critic decides by asking: Is it Entertaining? Does it have intellectual/artistic value? And most importantly, Is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: Fatherhood
Overall Rating: Kinda Good
Fatherhood is not a masterpiece but not every film needs to be the best film a viewer has ever seen. Following a man who loses his wife unexpectedly and is faced with raising a daughter on his own, Fatherhood is a gentle exploration of love, grief and family which takes viewers on emotional highs and lows.
Slightly slow in its pacing with not quite enough conflict to be particularly compelling, Fatherhood falls short of genius but does in its restraint capture a certain unexpected realism that fathers in America can almost certainly relate to. While it doesn’t necessarily make for the most exciting film, Fatherhood challenges us by exploring the not-so-big crisis in life which can bring us all to the very edge of our anxious cliffs. Particularly when they are in the shadow of loss.
With its family values, its direct hit to liberal “toxic masculinity” culture and its sweet story line, Fatherhood is worth watching for fathers and non-fathers alike. It’s a good one for a rainy night or to wind down from a long work day.
Is it Entertaining?
Rating: Watchably interesting but a bit slow
Fatherhood is a story based character drama which explores the coming of age of both child and father in the wake of tragic loss. It is not intended to be a thriller or an action flick or a comedy so keeping that in mind, it is an interesting and emotional story that will keep viewers invested for its pleasantly restrained 1 hour and 50 minute runtime.
Giving us plenty of story as Kevin Hart’s Matthew raises his daughter, Maddy from baby to young girl, Fatherhood gives the viewer a lot of space to watch Matthew not learn to parent – he’s a natural – but learn to find himself again as a single parent struggling with grief.
Fatherhood is a little slow and not perfectly paced, resting too often on the day to day and providing the viewer with not quite enough conflict to stay deeply engaging. Matthew’s career conflict, rather realistically, centers around one repeated issue which never really escalates but sort of just remains visible and does not come with any particular high stakes consequence. No one is getting fired or black-balled, they might just not advance as quickly. His relationship conflict comes on a little suddenly and doesn’t quite give the viewer space to buy-in and become emotionally invested. The school conflict resolves itself, again realistically, without much drama between players despite its fairly high stress crescendo.
Overall the viewer won’t be bored but its safe to take a bathroom break or grab some more snacks without pausing.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Fatherhood is well made. Based on a true story and book by Matt Logelin (more on this below), the film cares the most about developing characters and growing those characters and it does so very well.
When creating a character driven world the performances are the most crucial element of filmmaking. In this case, the true standout is Kevin Hart taking on the role of Matthew Logelin himself. Hart is known for his standup comedy and his silly antics in films which rely heavily on slap-stick and situational humor. His goofy expressions and exceptional comedic timing has earned him a lot of fame and respect in the comedy world. But following in the footsteps of the true greats (Robin Williams, Steve Martin, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Chris Rock, etc), Hart will surprise fans with his careful nuance and quiet power as Matthew. His performance may not be oscar worthy with a few forced moments but it is credible and it is enjoyable. Hart outhits many actors attempting to balance softness with strength in a role about fathers and daughters and he sheds his cloak of comedy so easily but without falling into some over the top drama like some of his comedy forefathers.
The choice to limit hollywoodization of the true story plot wise limits the films ability to reach new heights. But the realism is territory often unexplored and it’s tackled well by director Paul Weitz. Had Weitz made the choice to cast and polish slightly less glossy actors in slightly less glossy surroundings the realism might have shined through a bit more giving it a little extra edge (yes my critique is both that its not hollywood enough and that it is too hollywood and that is my right as a critic).
Overall its well made and well acted. The child actor playing Maddy was sweet and very rarely too much. The comedic relief brought by Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Tag) and Anthony Carrigan (Barry, Gotham) as Matthew’s friends is subtle and refreshing and the strength of experience brought by Alfre Woodard (12-Years A Slave, Luke Cage) playing Matthew’s mother-in-law gives it grounding. Its a worthy piece of film.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Fatherhood takes on so many tropes created and championed by the left that I probably missed quite a few. It does so while also challenging stereotypes about race without tipping into the maudlin or the force fed. Kevin Hart depicts real-life Matthew Logelin who is actually a white man with a son. By replacing Logelin so easily with a black character, we are reminded that the things that really matter to us like our families defy race and can never be defined by race which is a direct hit to critical race theory.
Further, featuring a black single father (working in tech no less) challenges the stereotypes about black fatherhood and the issue with abandoned children and families in minority neighborhoods which is so often dismissed by the left as “cultural” as if black fathers do not love and wish to care for their children in the same way as white fathers.
Additionally the entire film presents only positive male figures. At no time does Matthew struggle with being a father in an inept, unloving or incompetent way. He is a great father who puts his daughter first and cares deeply for her even as he cannot figure out how to do her hair properly. Unlike other films of its kind, Matthew never sends Maddy to school with the wrong hair. He patiently sits and figures it out until it looks nice enough for school. His guy friends love Maddy deeply and include her in their lives. They are never portrayed as giving Matthew a hard time for not being available or pushing him to sluff the kid off with grandma. They are steady and stable good men. Even Matthew’s boss who pushes him to take on a higher paying role that causes him to travel does not do so with any kind of ire or grievance about his having a child.
But the men of the film are also not soft. They are manly type men with traditional male roles in the family. Matthew dresses Maddy like a boy because he doesn’t really know how to dress a girl and since she’s not around women, that is how she wants to dress. Matthew is muscular and patriarchal but he displays genuine respect for motherhood and women and while he is able to take on the role of primary parent, he recognizes the value that mom’s – as women in female familial roles – bring to their children.
Even when the film gets a little anti-catholic it doesn’t conclude that way and its really more specifically anti-rules than anti-religion.
The film pushes aside the liberal agenda and allows people to be people without critically analyzing if they’re “too white” or “white adjacent” or “too tough” or “not feminine enough.” It’s a refreshing take on family values which reminds us all that patriarchs – fathers – are a critical element of our society.