Destructive ideologies and men’s own poor choices have distorted what it means to be a man and father. Consequently, many men today find themselves sitting on the sidelines of parenthood. It’s encouraging, then, to see Fatherhood, a new Netflix film, set the record straight: Parenting is a man’s duty—good for his children and good for him.
Regrettably, the film’s laudable message comes peppered with careless vulgarities and a few profanities. So I don’t recommend allowing kids to watch Fatherhood (rated PG-13). But I wouldn’t hesitate to take a young man I’m mentoring at church to see it.
Comedian Kevin Hart plays Matt Logelin, who wrote the bestseller that “inspired” Fatherhood. In the film, Matt’s wife dies shortly after she gives birth to their first child, a daughter named Maddy. Matt’s heartache compounds his frustrations with fastening diapers, folding strollers, and figuring out baby Maddy’s colic issues—making for some of the movie’s lighter moments. A successful job requiring travel tempts Matt to hand off permanent care for Maddy to her grandparents. His family and friends don’t believe he can raise a child by himself.
Viewers may have similar misgivings about Hart. Is the star of Ride Along and Jumanji films ready for a dramatic role? Can he do subtle humor? Carrying each emotion with perfect naturalness, Hart commanded my attention start to finish. Fatherhood
may be Hart’s Father of the Bride
moment, showing his acting depth, as that 1991 movie did for Steve Martin.
The film’s second act picks up when Maddy (Melody Hurd) enters grade school. Hurd more than holds her own. For example, when Matt and Maddy are playing a hand-slapping game, she distracts him with questions about a booger on his shirt. Her facial expressions induce convulsions of laughter in Hart that, I’m convinced, were not theatrical. Nor were my tears, when Matt and Maddy tell each other, “Wherever you go, I want to go there, too.”
While faith plays no significant role in Fatherhood, the film stands close to Biblical principles. An ultrasound photo and a beautifully ooey-gooey newborn in the opening scenes buck mainstream culture’s tendency to hide evidence of a baby’s humanity. Later, Matt initially declines a new love interest’s invitations to extramarital intimacy. When he eventually yields (in a slightly sensual scene), to his horror Matt has missed phone calls from Maddy’s school about an injury she has sustained—seemingly a rebuke of his behavior.
The film also tackles gender-appropriate clothing with common sense. In behavior not atypical of an early grade schooler, Maddy likes boys’ superhero underwear, and, defying her school’s dress code, prefers long pants to a skirt. Matt just rolls with it. There’s no push for gender conversion therapy, only Matt’s commitment to surround Maddy with caring women.
In all, Hart’s character makes the case: The fatherhood job is a joy.