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Review: Kevin Hart delivers a career best performance in touching 'Fatherhood'

Courtesy of Netflix


Stirring and sentimental without being cheap, Paul Weitz’ endearing comedy “Fatherhood” offers a rare, mature performance from comedian Kevin Hart who until now was playing the goofy sidekick or loud, speed-talkin’ wiseguy. In “Fatherhood,” Hart isn’t playing a character, but a real, honest person with responsibilities and stakes, a refreshing change of pace from “Ride Along” and “The Wedding Planner.” “Fatherhood” loses steam heading into a second half which doesn't have as much flavor as the first, but Hart lets his emotions fly and offers a deeper, reflective look at being a single dad in today’s landscape.

Adapted from the memoir by Matt Logelin (played here by Hart), based on his own life experiences, “Fatherhood” sees the hyper comedian dial down his usual antics (though he still manages to sneak in that classic Hart squeal) playing a recently widowed father to young daughter, Maddy (Melody Hurd). Nobody thinks Matt can handle the pressure of raising his kid (just ask his mother-in-law played by Alfre Woodard) and juggle the daily pains of his hectic marketing executive gig with the full time nature of parenting. The early days prove rough and all the typical dad movie cliches are in full effect: Figuring out methods of helping the baby sleep, forgetting the pediatrician appointment, and constantly fraying about whether or not you’re doing anything right. The best scene in “Fatherhood” comes when Matt crashes a parenting class full of mothers and begs for help.

Aided by his good pals (Lil Rel Howery and Anthony Carrigan) “Fatherhood” settles into a groove pretty early until Maddy enters grade school and is faced with an abundance of adolescence issues, including bullying, and watching her friends at sleepovers get tucked in by their mom. These sappier elements occasionally land on the side of melodramatic, but the plucky chemistry among Hart and Hurd is one of several worthwhile reasons “Fatherhood” is much better than your average “dad” movie. Another keen example is a scene earlier in the film, when Maddy is a toddler, sees Matt having to coodle, feed, and hold his daughter during an important business presentation. It’s a reminder that we need to normalize not only the single dad image, but the curveballs parenting encompasses on a daily basis.

“Fatherhood” is seemingly split into two films and one is better than the other, but the glue which holds both together lies in the charming performances of Hart and Hurd. Sure, Hart was able to show a shade of his emotional side during the semi-decent “The Upside,” except his channeling of grief and depression through the lens of an unprepared parent in “Fatherhood” hits all the right notes. It’s nice to see a genuinely wholesome, down to earth comedy, set in reality without the burdens of tacky sight gags boggling down momentum. For a change, audiences will see Hart breathe between sentences and listen to what others around him are saying.

Grade: B

FATHERHOOD debuts on Netflix Friday, June 18th


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