The film also includes short profiles, in the manner of a heartstring-tugging TV newsmagazine, of fathers who at first read as “regular folks,” but turn out to be media stars who have transformed the narrative of their own fatherhood into a source of income as well as public inspiration. These include the founder of Brazil’s Paizinho, a resource for dads that led to the site’s founder reuniting with his own father, a non-presence in his life for decades; and Bob Scheer, who overcame an abusive childhood to become a foster parent to four kids, and found a nonprofit that gives free supplies to foster children so that they won’t have to carry their belongings in a trash bag, as Scheer did when he was their age.
As typified by Scheer’s story, “Dads” is largely devoid of unpleasantness that doesn’t end by reassuring us that the person telling the story overcame the bad times. ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel briefly alludes the agony of nearly losing his newborn son to a heart defect, and physician turned actor-comedian Ken Jeong gets a few sentences about his wife’s breast cancer, the subject of an entire standup special elsewhere. It can be frustrating to watch the documentary skip across the rough parts, including acknowledgments that some of these dads were driven to be better fathers because their own fathers were absent or inadequate.
But that approach seems baked into the mission statement of “Dads,” essentially an advertisement for modern, evolved fatherhood, co-produced by Dove, one of the world’s largest soap manufacturers (which says it’s making donations to the global fatherhood nonprofit Men+Care in conjunction with the movie). “Dads” was released on Apple TV two days before Father’s Day, and is pretty clearly intended as a movie that extended families can watch together after a cookout wherein dad or grandad presides over the grill, leaping past anything that might ruin the mood by forcing people to confront the things they’ve decided not to talk about. The editing, by Andrew Morreale, jams caught-on-video slapstick and wry observations together rapid-fire, reality TV style, and slows down when the sad parts arrive, with composer Sami Jano italicizing moods to make sure you feel what you’re supposed to be feeling at any given moment.