Bryce Dallas Howard -- daughter of Ron Howard -- makes her directorial debut with Dads, a documentary that celebrates what it is to be a father.
Three streams of content are woven throughout: celebrities, her own family, and unconventional dads around the world.
She starts with quick cuts of the famous folks -- mostly comedians -- talking about fatherhood, with Conan O'Brien and Will Smith earning the biggest shares of laughs. She includes home movies of her own birth (quite the moustache on Mr. Howard back then), and follows her brother and sister-in-law's preparations for their first child. But the most substantial and grounded portions are the profiles of fathers across the U.S. and the world, including a gay couple raising foster kids, and a house husband in Japan.
The film's thesis is that the role of the father has changed. It isn't easy to let go of the past, whether it's fighting one's own preconceived notions of manhood, or shirking the expectations of gender roles in society.
Howard strikes the right balance on all counts. The home movies don't feel indulgent. The tone never becomes sappy. Dads doesn't dig too far into cultural criticism, either, and gets back to the fun at the right times.
Equal parts silly, serious, and warm, Dads is a bearhug of a film.
Sharilyn has written on comedy, television, and film for publications such as The Toronto Star, The A.V. Club, and Vanity Fair, as well as on CBC Radio. You can follow her on Twitter at @sharilynj.