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Director Bryce Dallas Howard and her father Ron Howard on the set of Dads.

Courtesy of Apple TV+

  • Dads
  • Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard
  • Featuring Ron Howard, Jimmy Kimmel and Will Smith
  • Classification N/A; 87 minutes

rating

2 out of 4 stars

When Bryce Dallas Howard’s feature documentary Dads, starring her director father Ron Howard, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this past fall, it was easy to sense the derision that snaked through the critical community. A prime example of Hollywood nepotism, right smack in a festival that can’t shake a reputation for providing favours to famous faces! Perfect.

That charge doesn’t stick quite as well once you take the entirety of Dads in – the film is as much a slick home movie as it is a sincere investigation into the changing attitudes of modern parenthood. But in Howard’s inability to reconcile her film’s twin desires, Dads arrives this weekend on Apple TV+ as a particularly strange and off-putting Father’s Day present.

Dads works best when Howard steps outside Hollywood to tell stories of everyday families.

Courtesy of Apple TV+

All right, maybe your dad is especially hungry for parenting advice from Ron. I mean, the guy did direct Parenthood, so there’s got to be some precious insight there. And hey, maybe your dad just wants to kick back and listen to funny poop anecdotes from all the famous people whom the director roped into the project, such as Will Smith, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel and Kenan Thompson.

Story continues below advertisement

But if your father, or mother, or whoever, is more interested in what, exactly, the contemporary state of fatherhood might be, then they’ll only be half-satisfied by Howard’s offering. Whenever the director steps outside her Hollywood bubble to tell stories of real people facing real challenges – there is one segment devoted to a same-sex couple who adopted four children that is particularly heartfelt – Dads hits just as hard as one might hope.

Rob Scheer and Reece Scheer with their four adopted children.

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Yet Howard – Bryce, but the same might be said for Ron, whose filmography also leans toward easy narrative decision-making – doesn’t have the confidence to centre her doc on genuine, difficult stories. She inches her way there but too often pulls back, relieved that there are familiar yucksters like Judd Apatow and Ken Jeong to lighten things up before the film gets too dark or, rather, too real.

I’m certain Dads will be a staple of the Howard family’s Father’s Day celebrations for many years to come. I just can’t expect it to become as familiar in anyone else’s home.

Dads is available to stream on Apple TV+ starting June 19

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