‘Fatherhood’ Review: A Welcome (Semi) Serious Turn from Kevin Hart

I guess there’s something ironic about Kevin Hart starring in a film about maturing while also attempting to branch out into new acting territories.

“Fatherhood” stars Kevin Hart as a new father as he struggles to raise his daughter (Melody Hurd) after the sudden death of his wife. Alfre Woodard, Lil Rel Howery, DeWanda Wise, Anthony Carrigan, and Paul Reiser also star, while Paul Weiz directs and co-writes.

No one has ever accused Kevin Hart of being a good actor (he can’t even keep a straight face on SNL), but his work in the comedy-drama “The Upside” back in 2019 was good enough to make me interested in seeing him in more serious roles. “Fatherhood” marks his most challenging role to-date and while he’s not going to win any awards, the film offers Hart a chance to flex some new acting muscles while still cracking a few jokes.

Normally the energetic comedic relief, here Hart slows down and gets to display some actual emotion. While it is never quite enough to bring you to tears, he carries himself well in several passionate scenes and it never feels like the subject matter is beyond his grasp.

The rest of the cast is solid, too, with Melody Hurd sharing some great chemistry with Hart as his young daughter. Hurd has some good timing in both her dramatic and comedic moments, and I’m really excited to see what she does in the future. Both Paul Reiser and Lil Rel Howery (who I’m not the biggest fan of sans “Get Out”) provide some funny moments while Alfre Woodard is the film’s true gravitas dramatic backbone as Hart’s mother-in-law.

Paul Weiz has a track record of directing genuine-feeling films (“American Pie” and “About a Boy” to name two), and here he does a good job of making sure things stay feeling organic instead of contrived. There are a few eye-rolling instances in the script (like Hart meeting a woman with the same name has his deceased wife), but things never get sappy or mushy.

Overall, “Fatherhood” is a simple (if not slightly overlong at 109 minutes) film that shows the bond between a parent and their kid, especially when they’re tasked with raising them alone. It’s nothing we’ve never seen before, but fans of Hart or this type of film should get more than what they want out of the experience.

Critics Rating: 6/10


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