Apple TV+ film review: Dads
Ivan Radford | On 21, Jun 2020
Director: Bryce Dallas Howard
Cast: Ron Howard, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Hasan Minhaj, Will Smith
Watch Dads online in the UK: Apple TV+
“I’m not Jimmy Fallon anymore. I’m Winnie’s dad.” That’s the sound of Jimmy Fallon talking about being a dad in Dads, directed by Bryce Dallas Howard. He’s joined by Jimmy Kimmel, Judd Apatow, Conan O’Brien, Will Smith and more famous people, all of whom are here to talk about being dads. If that sounds like a film stuffed with stars, you’d be right, and it’s both the good and bad thing about the Apple TV+ documentary.
Dallas Howard, making her directorial debut, sets out to celebrate fatherhood by hearing from a range of fathers reflecting on what it means to be a dad, and what it takes to be a dad. But, being the daughter of Ron Howard, she naturally turns to the people she has access to, which gives an inevitable Hollywood clique feeling to the whole affair. When three of your contributors are white late night talk show hosts of around the same age, it’s hard to get past their own personas.
Fortunately, though, Dallas Howard does find some diversity and some in-depth observations in these sweet 90 minutes. Smith brings his natural humour to the table with anecdotes and confessions that are endearingly frank, while Ken Jeong and Hasan Minhaj have interesting things to say about the culture instilled in them by their fathers’ examples.
But it’s tellingly when we move away from the celebrity friends that Dads finds its more moving moments, as Dallas Howard turns the camera on her own dad, Ron, who comes across as an incredibly nice and compassionate parent. He’s also, unsurprisingly, an eager home video recorder, and so we get a large slice of photos and footage of the Howard family, with Bryce’s brother, Reed, joining her to reflect on the way they were raised. Bryce finds some other, equally personal stories away from the La La Land limelight that also strike a chord.
You end up wanting more of that honesty and candid approach, because while the film’s visual palette – which deftly cuts between monologues filmed against bright backgrounds and raw video clips – is lively and engaging, it can sometimes feel a little too commercial and shallow. What of the people whose stories with their dads are less positive? Or those without present and active dads? Nonetheless, this sentimental project has its heart in the right place, and it’ll be interesting to see what feature Bryce – who has also helmed an episode of The Mandalorian – will move on to next.
Dads is available on Apple TV+, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, with a seven-day free trial.