‘Fatherhood’ review: Kevin Hart gets the chance to show off his serious side in a new Netflix movie

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Based mostly on the e-book by Matthew Logelin (performed by Hart), the film begins on the funeral for his spouse Liz (“Them’s” Deborah Ayorinde), who died of a pulmonary embolism shortly after giving start to their daughter.

Devastated, Matt resists the pleas from Liz’s mom (Alfre Woodard, terrific as all the time) to let her take the infant again to Minnesota, insisting on elevating her alone whereas attempting to handle a demanding full-time job with minimal help from his two fool buddies, performed by Lil Rel Howery and Anthony Carrigan (“Barry”). They are not a lot assist with duties like putting in automotive seats or assembling child furnishings, however three males and infants have a reasonably profitable display historical past, so greatest to not quibble.

Matt’s boss (Paul Reiser) additionally tries to be understanding, however he isn’t a lot better at it than the sometimes tone-deaf guys, or the strangers who maintain cheerfully asking him the place the infant’s mother is.

Directed by Paul Weitz (“A few Boy”), who shares script credit score with Dana Stevens, the film derives appreciable comedy from Matt’s preliminary plight — together with visible gags, like putting the diaper genie beneath a toy basketball hoop — however that is leavened by the crushing loss that he has skilled, and the nagging self-doubt about his parenting abilities.

“You assume you are able to do this, however you possibly can’t,” his mother-in-law tells him early on, a query that does not actually fade as child Maddy grows up into a bit of lady (the lovable Melody Hurd, who additionally performed Ayorinde’s daughter, because it occurs, in Amazon’s “Them”).

Including to the problems, Matt meets a lady, additionally named Liz (DeWanda Smart, the star of Netflix’s replace of “She’s Gotta Have It”), including a 3rd ball to his juggling act, whereas attempting to stay centered on elevating Maddy as his major concern.

“I simply wish to do what your mother would have wished me to do,” Matt tells Maddy, after butting heads together with her grandma.

Different hurdles emerge, however there’s actually not a complete lot extra to it than that past watching Matt develop to satisfy the calls for and quirks of parenting, and Hart — becoming a member of a protracted legacy of comedic actors who’ve expanded to extra dramatic elements — exhibit emotional depths not repeatedly related to the likes of his comedies or the “Jumanji” motion pictures. Weitz creates sufficient room for him to flex these muscle tissue, however the widowed sitcom dad riffs are clearly secondary to the movie’s household underpinnings.

The press notes evoke one other former First Woman by referring to the “It takes a village” side of Matt’s story, however the attraction of “Fatherhood” actually boils all the way down to its title, the resilience of the human spirit, and Hart being daring sufficient — like his alter ego — to assume that he can do that. And like Matt, by the point it is over, he is demonstrated that he fairly effectively can.

“Fatherhood” premieres June 18 on Netflix.

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