Review: ‘Dads,’ starring Ron Howard, Will Smith, Conan O’Brien, Ken Jeong, Jimmy Fallon, Neil Patrick Harris and Jimmy Kimmel

June 20, 2020

by Carla Hay

Bryce Dallas Howard and her father Ron Howard in “Dads” (Photo courtesy of Apple TV+)

“Dads” 

Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard

Culture Representation: The documentary “Dads” has a racially diverse group of people (white, black, Asian and Latino) representing the middle-class and wealthy and talking about fatherhood.

Culture Clash: Some of the fathers interviewed in the film talk about defying traditional masculine stereotypes, by being more involved in raising their children than previous generations of fathers were expected to be.

Culture Audience: “Dads” will appeal to anyone who likes nonfiction films about parenting issues, even though it shuts out any perspectives of fathers who are poor or have negative attitudes about being fathers.

Robert Selby (pictured at right) and his son RJ in “Dads” (Photo courtesy of Apple TV+)

The documentary “Dads” puts such an unrelenting positive and happy spin on fatherhood that it has a strange dichotomy of being a nonfiction film that isn’t entirely realistic. Bryce Dallas Howard (the eldest child of Oscar-winning filmmaker Ron Howard) makes her feature-film directorial debut with “Dads,” which devotes considerable screen time to members of the Howard family talking about fatherhood. “Dads” is ultimately a very uplifting “feel good” movie, but it doesn’t do anything groundbreaking or reveal any new concepts of fatherhood.

There are no deadbeat dads or bitter fathers who’ve lost child custody in “Dads.” Instead, the documentary focuses only on fathers who love being dads and have good relationships with their children. There are several celebrities interviewed in the film (all of whom have a background in comedy), such as Judd Apatow, Jimmy Fallon, Neil Patrick Harris, Ron Howard, Ken Jeong, Jimmy Kimmel, Hasan Minhaj, Conan O’Brien, Patton Oswalt and Will Smith.

“Dads” has three kinds of footage: soundbites from the celebrities, with Bryce Dallas Howard as the interviewer (she sometimes appears on camera); clips of home movies (the clips from random, unidentified people give the documentary an “America’s Funniest Home Videos” look); and six in-depth profiles of seven middle-class fathers from different parts of the world.

Although the celebrities offer some amusing anecdotes, many of their stories seem rehearsed or their comments are made just to crack a joke. Smith, in particular, seems to have memorized way in advance what he was going to say in this documentary. With the exception of Ron Howard, the celebrities are not shown with their children in this documentary, which is why the celebrity segments in the film are pretty superficial. The best parts of the documentary are with the people who aren’t rich and famous, because that’s the footage that actually shows “regular” fathers (who don’t have nannies) taking care of the kids.

The seven non-famous fathers who are profiled in the movie are:

  • Glen Henry (in San Diego), an African American who became a “daddy vlogger” to document his experiences as a stay-at-home dad.
  • Reed Howard (in Westchester, New York), who is Bryce Dallas Howard’s youngest sibling and was a first-time expectant father at the time the documentary was filmed.
  • Robert Selby (in Triangle, Virginia), an African American whose son survived a life-or-death medical crisis.
  • Thiago Queiroz (in Rio de Janeiro), a Brazilian who started a podcast and blog about fatherhood and who advocates for longer time for paternity leaves.
  • Shuichi Sakuma (in Tokyo), who is a Japanese homemaker.
  • Rob Scheer and Reece Scheer (in Darnestown, Maryland), a white gay couple who adopted four African American kids.

Glen Henry used to work as a sales clerk at men’s clothing store, but he was so unhappy in his job that his wife Yvette suggested that he quit his job and become a stay-at-home father. (At the time “Dads” was filmed, the Henrys had two sons and a daughter.) Glen Henry, who has a blog called Beleaf in Fatherhood, began making videos documenting his fatherhood experiences.

Glen admits that he thought at first that it would be easy to take care of the kids by himself, but he found out that he was very wrong about that. “I felt like an imposter,” he says of his early years as a homemaker. Even though his wife Yvette says she wasn’t thrilled about Glen putting their family’s life on display for everyone to see on the Internet, she says it’s worth it because Glen is a much happier person as a stay-at-home dad.

Echoing what many of the fathers say in the documentary, Glen Henry comments: “The role of father has shifted in a major way. We went from providing, being there for holidays and disciplining to being all the way involved—and you kind of look like a dork if you’re not.”

He continues, “I feel like being a father made me the man that I am. My children taught me to be authentic and honest with myself. Fatherhood has given me a whole new identity.”

Reed Howard, who was expecting his first child with his wife when this documentary was being filmed, talks about the home videos that his father Ron filmed of all of his children being born. (Clips of some of those videos are included in the documentary.) Reeds says half-jokingly that since all of Ron’s kids were forced to watch the videos, it was “traumatic” to see part of his mother’s body that he never wanted to see.

Ron Howard’s father Rance (who died in 2017) is also interviewed in “Dads.” Rance says that when Ron was a co-star on “The Andy Griffith Show,” Rance suggested to Andy Griffith to not have Ron’s character Opie written as a brat. Griffith took the advice, and the father-son relationship on the show was modeled after the relationship that Rance had with Ron in real life. (Rance Howard and Ron Howard are the only grandfathers interviewed in the movie, by the way.)

Most of the dads interviewed in the documentary get emotional and teary-eyed at some point in the film. Ron Howard’s crying moment comes when he says that his greatest fear as a father was that he wouldn’t be as good as his father was to him. Reed (who is Ron’s only son) expresses the same fear about not being able to live up to the great experiences that he had with Ron as his father.

Selby has perhaps the most compelling story, since his son RJ was born with a congenital heart defect. Selby describes years of stressful hospital visits and medical treatments in order to help RJ live as healthy of a life as possible. This dedicated dad had to make many sacrifices, such as taking unpaid time off from work and forgo paying some bills in order to pay for RJ’s medical expenses. “There was no doubt in mind: I would forever be his protector,” Selby says of his outlook on being RJ’s father.

Selby is also the only father interviewed in the film who isn’t financially privileged, since he says that he often didn’t have a car during his son’s ongoing medical crisis. And when he did have a car, it was repossessed  multiple times because he couldn’t make the payments. He ended up working a night shift because it was the only way he could have a job (he doesn’t mention what he does for a living) while also going to school and taking care of RJ during the day.

Chantay Williams (who is RJ’s mother) and Selby were never married and didn’t have a serious relationship when she got pregnant with RJ. Selby breaks down and cries when he remembers that when he found out about the pregnancy, he didn’t want Williams to have the child and he didn’t talk to her for two months. But he changed his mind, asked for her forgiveness, and is now a very involved father.

However, Selby says that he still feels shame over his initial reaction to the pregnancy, and he comments that he’ll probably spend the rest of his life trying to make up for that mistake. Williams says in the documentary that Selby is proof that someone can change, and that he’s truly a devoted father and that his devotion isn’t just a show for the documentary cameras.

Quieroz (a married father of two sons and a daughter) knows what it’s like to not have a father raise him, since his dad wasn’t in his life for most of his childhood. He says that it’s one of the reasons why he vowed to always be there for his kids. Quieroz’s day job is as a mechanical engineer, but he also started a fatherhood podcast with two other Brazilian fathers, and he has a fatherhood blog. It’s through the blog that Quieroz’s estranged father got in touch with him. The outcome of that contact is revealed in the documentary.

Sakuma talks about how, in Japanese culture, men who don’t work outside the home are considered “society dropouts.” When he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder 20 years ago, Sakuma could no longer work outside the home. He became so depressed that he contemplated divorce and suicide, until his wife begged him: “Please continue living for me.”

After Sakuma regained his health, one of the first things he wanted to do was become a parent, but his wife didn’t want to have kids. He says in the documentary that he began a personal campaign that lasted two years to get his wife to change her mind. She changed her mind when he told her that men can do anything when it comes to raising a child, except for pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. He convinced her that he would make a great stay-at-home dad, which he is to their son.

Rob and Reece Scheer didn’t expect to become parents to four kids in a short period of time (less than a year), but that’s what happened when they fostered four children, whom they eventually ended up adopting. Rob and Reece have three sons and one daughter; two of the sons are biological brothers. Rob (the older husband) says he knew that he wanted to be a father since he was 6 years old. Rob describes how he grew up with an abusive father, but that traumatic experience helped him know that he wanted to be the opposite of abusive when he became a dad.

The four kids adopted by Reece and Rob also come from troubled backgrounds, so Rob believes surviving his own abusive childhood helps him relate to his kids in that way. As for Reece, he was working two jobs when he decided quit those jobs to be the couple’s stay-at-home partner. They had to make the sacrifice of having a lower household income, but now the family lives happily on a farm, which the dads say has been beneficial for the emotional well-being of their kids.

Rob Scheer says that sometimes people say unintentionally ignorant things  about gay couples who are parents. “People ask, ‘Who’s the mom and who’s the dad?’ We’re both dads, but the one thing that we do is that we both partner. That’s what parents should be doing.”

One of the questions that Bryce Dallas Howard asks the celebrities is to define what a father is in one word. Fallon says “hero,” while Minhaj says “compass.” Many of the celebrity fathers in the documentary make obvious comments that are similar to each other, such as: “There’s no instruction manual/rulebook to being a father.”

And although Kimmel and Jeong briefly mention the medical scares they went through with their children (a heart defect for one of Kimmel’s sons, a premature birth for one of Jeong’s children), the documentary doesn’t show them opening up about these issues in a meaningful way. Instead, most of the celebrity soundbites are meant to elicit laughs. Several of the celebrities make references to their busy careers when they talk about how their work keeps them from spending more time with their kids, but they know that they’re working hard to provide very well for their children.

Although the non-famous fathers who are profiled  in “Dads” seem to be a diverse group because they’re from different countries and racial groups, they actually have more in common with each other than not, because they’re all middle-class fathers with children who were under the age of 13 at the time this documentary was filmed. It seems like these fathers were selected because they have young children who are in the “cute” stages of life—no kids who are teenagers or adults—thereby creating more documentary footage that was likely to be “adorable.”

Apatow and Smith are the only fathers who talk about how fatherhood became less fun for them when their children became teenagers. They mention that they had to learn to give their teenage kids space, adjust to their kids’ growing independence, and allow them to make their own decisions on issues, even if those decisions turned out to be mistakes. But since the documentary doesn’t do any up-close profiles of non-famous fathers who have teenagers, the only commentaries about raising teenagers come from rich and famous guys, and it’s questionable how relatable these celebrity dads are to the rest of the public.

For example, Smith has said in other interviews (not in this documentary) that he and his wife Jada don’t believe that their kids should be punished in their household when they do something wrong, their kids never had to do household chores, and he and Jada allowed their kids to drop out of school when the kids didn’t feel like going anymore. Apatow admits in the documentary that he’s also a permissive dad who never really punished his kids if they did something wrong. Is it any wonder that many celebrities are perceived as raising spoiled kids who are out of touch with the real world?

One of the other shortcomings of “Dads” is that, except for Selby, the documentary completely ignores major financial strains that parenthood can cause. It’s as if the documentary wants to forget that financially poor fathers exist in this world too. And even though Minhaj is the only one in “Dads” to mention the immigrant experience, “Dads” could have used more fatherhood stories from an immigrant perspective.

However, if you want a heartwarming look at famous and non-famous dads who say that parenthood is the best thing that ever happened to them, “Dads” fulfills all those expectations. This documentary is more like a series of love letters instead of a thorough and inclusive investigation.

Apple TV+ premiered “Dads” on June 19, 2020.

2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Celine Dion, Jimmy Fallon, The Roots added to lineup

November 13, 2019

The following is a press release from NBC:

A spectacle like no other awaits millions as the 93rd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®, the nation’s most cherished holiday tradition, once again kicks off the holiday season. Millions of families will tune in to watch the excitement unfold on Thursday, Nov. 28 as Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker of NBC News’ “TODAY” host the broadcast from 9 a.m.-noon in all time zones that will also include a special debut performance from her new album Courage by the incomparable Celine Dion.

The Macy’s Parade has must-see entertainment for everyone in the family. Joining the festivities will be stars from a variety of global music genres from pop, R&B and country to Latin and K-Pop, with a few noteworthy special appearances thrown in the mix. Appearing or performing onboard one of Macy’s signature floating stages will be Natasha Bedingfield, Black Eyed Peas, Chicago, Ciara, Josh Dela Cruz, Celine Dion, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots, Debbie Gibson, former NASA astronauts Kay Hire & Janet Kavandi, Chris Janson, Idina Menzel, Lea Michele, Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin, NHL legends Dominic Moore and Eddie Olczyk, the cast & Muppets of Sesame Street, NCT 127, Ozuna, Billy Porter, Kelly Rowland, That Girl Lay Lay, TLC, Tenille Townes and Chris Young; with an extra special appearance by the one-and-only Santa Claus.

To kick-off the revelry, a special must-see opening number featuring a who’s who of actors, singers, dancers and more, all joined by the cast and Muppets of Sesame Street, will start the Thanksgiving Day party with a smash.

Following the opener on 34th Street, Broadway’s best shows will take a star turn in front of Macy’s famed flagship with special performances from the casts of Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations, Beetlejuice, Hadestown and Tina – The Tina Turner Musical. In addition, the show-stopping Radio City Rockettes® will bring their signature high-kicking magic to Herald Square.

Since November 1924, the magic of the holiday season has begun with the march of the Macy’s Parade as it enthrals the nation with its signature mix of whimsical elements and special performances. For the 93rd edition, the line-up will feature 16 giant character balloons; 40 novelty balloons, heritage balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and trycaloons; 26 floats; 1,200 cheerleaders and dancers; more than 1,000 clowns; and 11 marching bands.

“We are thrilled to present the 93rd edition of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to our viewers nationwide,” said Doug Vaughan, Executive Vice President, Special Programs, NBC Entertainment. “This iconic tradition will once again jump start the holiday season with a celebration led by an incredible lineup of performers, bands, floats, balloons and more.”

For the fourth year, Macy’s, along with NBCUniversal and Verizon, will give viewers an up close and personal second screen experience of the Parade with a 360-degree livestream on Verizon’s YouTube page. The stream will go live at 8:30 a.m. EST at www.youtube.com/verizon and will run through noon EST. With exclusive access to cameras along the entire Parade route, online spectators will get a glimpse of the magic behind the scenes, as well as a preview of what’s to come as the Parade marches down the streets of Manhattan. Additional information on the livestream to be announced soon.

New giant balloons joining the line-up this year include Astronaut Snoopy by Peanuts Worldwide, Green Eggs and Ham by Netflix, and SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary by Nickelodeon. In celebration of his 75thbirthday, a heritage balloon and fan-favorite will return to the Parade as Smokey Bear returns to the skies over Manhattan.

Since 2005, the Macy’s Parade has also been home to a collection of high-flying artworks created in collaboration with renowned contemporary artists, as part of a special series titled Macy’s Blue Sky Gallery. This year, for the eighth edition of the collection, the world’s most renowned female contemporary artist will take her iconic art to new heights as Yayoi Kusama joins the Macy’s Parade with her Love Flies Up to the Sky balloon creation. The balloon design was developed by the artist from face motifs that appear in her “My Eternal Soul” series of paintings — a body of work that she began in 2009. Vibrant and animated, the paintings embody Kusama’s innovative exploration of form and revolve around a tension between abstraction and figuration. The artist’s signature dots, which recur throughout her practice, also feature prominently in the Macy’s Parade balloon design. Previous balloons in the Macy’s Parade Blue Sky Gallery series have included works from famed artists Tom Otterness, Jeff Koons, Keith Haring, Takashi Murakami, Tim Burton, KAWS and FriendsWithYou.

This year five new floats will debut, including Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues & You! (Josh Dela Cruz), The Brick-changer by The Lego Group (NCT 127), Home Sweet Home by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® (Tenille Townes), Rexy in the City by COACH® (Billy Porter), and Toy House of Marvelous Milestones by New York Life (Kelly Rowland).

The nation’s best marching bands bring the beat to the holiday revelry. For this year’s 93rd march, 11 of the specially chosen ensembles will ignite coast-to-coast excitement and hometown pride as they step off and perform on the streets of the Big Apple. This year’s bands include Awesome Original Second Time Arounders Marching Band (St. Petersburg, FL), Blue Springs High School Golden Regiment (Blue Springs, MO), Catalina Foothills Falcon Band (Tucson, AZ), Franklin Regional Panther Band (Murrysville, PA), Macy’s Great American Marching Band (United States), Madison Central High School Band (Richmond, KY), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. High School’s Kings of Halftime (Lithonia, GA), Morgan State University’s The Magnificent Marching Machine (Baltimore, MD), NYPD Marching Band (New York, NY), Ronald Reagan High School Marching Band (San Antonio, TX) and Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band (Cullowhee, NC).

Entertaining the crowds with their signature exuberance will be the Parade’s signature large and specialty performance groups. Joining the line-up this year are the teen dancers and cheerleaders of Spirit of America Dance Stars and Spirit of America Cheer. These groups together feature more than 1,200 of the very best performers recruited from hometowns nationwide. Days before Thanksgiving, they will gather for the first time in New York City to rehearse their numbers as a group, ahead of their once-in-a-lifetime national spotlight. Adding some wacky 1980s style dancing will be the hilarious 610 Stompers (New Orleans, LA), with modern dance youth talent showcased by The Alvin Ailey School (New York, NY) and the tap dance theatrics of children from The Nice List (New York, NY). Rounding out the performance group line-up and joining select talent performances will be Gamma Phi Circus (Normal, IL), Manhattan Youth Ballet (New York, NY), the dance stars of the world-renowned in-school arts education program National Dance Institute (New York, NY) and Young People’s Chorus of NYC (New York, NY).

PLEASE NOTE: All talent, performers, elements and information included are subject to change.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast is produced by the Emmy Award-winning Brad Lachman Productions. Brad Lachman serves as executive producer, Bill Bracken will co-executive produce and Ron de Moraes directs.

For an insider’s look at the holiday procession, fans nationwide should visit macys.com/parade for regular updates including behind-the-scenes previews, special tours, interactive historical information, and more. Fans can also follow @macys on various social networks and join the conversation using #MacysParade.

Universal Orlando Resort announces opening date of Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon

January 13, 2017

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando)

Universal Orlando Resort has announced that its ride Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon will officially grand open on April 6, 2017.

According to a Universal Orlando press release, the attraction will give guests the ultimate “Tonight Show” experience as they get up close and personal with the show’s most hilarious segments before taking off on a wild and action-packed race through New York City against “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon himself.

To celebrate the attraction’s Grand Opening, “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” will take the show on the road with tapings from Universal Orlando Resort from April 3 through 6. Additional details on celebrity guests and how to become a part of the show audience will be released over time.

As they experience the attraction, guests will make their way through Studio 6B to board the world’s first-ever flying theater, which seats up to 72 audience members, for the race of a lifetime. They will speed through the streets of New York City and all the way to the moon and back, encountering iconic landmarks from the Statue of Liberty to the Empire State Building to everything in between.

“Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon” will be the first attraction at Universal Studios Florida to feature an all-new Virtual Line experience, allowing guests to spend less time waiting in line and more time discovering even more incredible thrills throughout Universal Studios. The Virtual Line system is accessible via the Official Universal Orlando Resort App or at kiosks located outside the attraction entrance.