Kevin Hart joins the Netflix family in the based on a true story dramedy “Fatherhood”. Based on the real life and New York Times bestselling nonfiction book “Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love” by Matthew Logelin. The Netflix and Sony collaboration has seventeen producers that includes star Kevin Hart and actor Channing Tatum (“21 Jump Street”). Co-written and directed by Paul Weitz, a veteran director of these kinds of dramas. Having previously directed: “American Pie”, “About A Boy”, “In Good Company” and “Little Fockers”.
Set in Boston, where Kevin Hart’s Matt and his wife Liz are about to welcome their first child. All goes well as their daughter Maddy is born healthy, but shortly after giving birth Liz suffers complications and she passes away. This leads to a montage of the overwhelmed Matt changing diapers to the needle drop of “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa. Matt starts bringing Baby Maddy to work, where Paul Reiser (“Mad About You”) is the most understanding and caring boss ever. Matt enlists the help of his best friends Jordan (Lil Rel Howery “Get Out”) and Oscar (Anthony Carrigan) to give a “Three Men & A Baby” vibe as they sing lullabies to Maddy, cheer Matt up and play poker with Maddy.
For the second hour of the film, we flash forward with the scene stealing presence of young Melody Hurd playing Maddy. As an older child Maddy is whip smart, self sufficient, funny and absolutely adores her dad. A new love interest eventually enters Matt and Maddy’s life. She immediately connects with Maddy and puts up with Matt’s inconsistencies and because “Fatherhood” is that exact kind of movie. We know that she is going to eventually end up as the best stepmom ever.
Darkness and heartbreak hits early in the film, as Kevin Hart very convincingly breaks down emotionally, after examining the aftermath of Liz’s sudden death. If you don’t tear up or ball your eyes out in this scene, then you need to get your tear ducts checked out by a physician. With that said Kevin Hart delivers one of his more understated, authentic, true, kind and believable performances.
Every moment Hart and young actress Melody Hurd share on screen together, their chemistry is like lightning and we believe them as father and daughter. “Fatherhood” is the most direct acting challenge Kevin Hart has faced in his career. Hart comes across as an earnest heartfelt actor, who knocks this one out of the park in his absolute best performance.
“Fatherhood” tries to steer away from formula as much as possible. In one instance Matt’s well intentioned and boundary crossing mother-in-law Marion, forces Matt to promise that if he can’t be the caregiver to his daughter he will have to move them back to Minnesota. But rather than have the movie revolve around that contrived wager, Weitz quickly abandons the premise and simply allows Matt to be a decent, inexperienced and frazzled new father.
Weitz’s film is briskly paced, simply told, consistently sweet tale that plays so effortlessly on screen and is a sincere ode to people who have to do the parenting thing solo. Whether “Fatherhood” was based on a true story or not, it’s a story that’s been done in far too many movies before it. Most notably Ben Affleck’s 2004 dramadey “Jersey Girl”, writer and director Kevin Smith’s best movie.
I have an undying love for “Jersey Girl”, but “Fatherhood” is a special film too. It has scenes that will make you laugh, tear up, tug at your heartstrings and features a performance that lets you see a new side of Kevin Hart’s talent. A side that I hope he showcases more of. Netflix has released another winner and gave me one of my favorite films I saw this year. I fell in love with this one.
GRADE: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)