Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Dads Movie Poster Image
Poignant docu finds common themes among diverse dads.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 87 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Dedicated, thoughtful, loving fathers come in all shapes, sizes, skin colors, socioeconomic classes, sexual orientations, and cultures. Men grow into their roles as dads, often after initial hesitation, cluelessness, or missteps. Modern fathers partner with mothers to care equally for kids. Having a child can change a man's life as well as his perspective on the world.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Dads from varied walks of life -- including celebrities, men from other countries, a gay couple, and the director's own brother, father, and grandfather -- reflect on what it means to be a father. They admit feelings of vulnerability, inadequacy, responsibility, and deepest love. Men show they aren't afraid to share their positive and negative experiences, cry on screen, put their own interests behind those of their kids, and buck societal norms of parenting.


Adults discuss painful memories from their own childhoods, including a man whose father stubbed out cigarettes on his arm when he was a boy. One family's baby is born with a heart defect, and others experienced fetal alcohol syndrome, hunger, and the effects of shaken baby syndrome. A man talks about considering suicide after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Various scenes show childbirth, with private parts blurred out, but including women feeling the pains of labor. Kids tussle with each other.


"S--t." "A--hole." "Damn." "Hell." "Heck." "Jeez." "God." "Poop." "Pee." "Butt." "Suck." "Stupid." "Freaking."


The film is backed by Dove Men+Care and Unilever Entertainment and will debut on AppleTV. Scenes from The Andy Griffith Show are played. Baby- and child-related products populate the background of several scenes and interviews. Brand names glimpsed include Joseph & Feiss, Polaroid, Cheerios, Ford, Chevy, Disney, and Starbucks, among others.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dads will appeal especially to mothers, fathers, and perhaps their own appreciative grown or older children. Fans of the celebrities interviewed in the documentary, mostly comedians and late-night hosts, are also a likely audience. While younger kids can certainly learn from the positive role models in the documentary, the more in-depth segments featuring non-celebrity fathers tackle some mature themes, like facing hardships as new parents and caring for kids born with physical problems or who have experienced emotional or physical trauma. A man talks about considering suicide after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Various scenes show childbirth, with private parts blurred out, but including women feeling the pains of labor. Several men cry on camera out of fear or joy, gratitude, and boundless love for their kids. There's language, including from celebrities, like "s--t," "a--hole," "hell," "heck," "jeez," "god," "suck," "stupid," and naturally, where babies are involved, "poop," "pee," and "butt."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byDave P. June 30, 2020


An informative and thought-provoking documentary about the enjoyment and challenges of being a father. Well worth your time.
Teen, 17 years old Written byVinReview June 21, 2020

What's the story?

DADS combines celebrity interviews, home movies, viral videos, and profiles of a diversity of dads in an exploration of what it means to be a father today. The documentary is directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of director-actor Ron Howard (also a producer here), and starts with home video footage of her own birth in 1981. The profiles include a California man who runs a popular vlog, Beleaf in Fatherhood, dedicated to his life as a stay-at-home dad; a single father in Virginia whose son has endured years of hospitalizations and surgeries due to a heart defect; a man in Brazil whose parenting podcast reunited him with his own estranged father; another man in Japan who overcame a distressing health diagnosis and his country's workaholic culture to find joy in fatherhood; and a gay couple in Maryland who fostered then adopted four children struggling with past abuse. The celebrities interviewed include, among others, late-night hosts Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, and Conan O'Brien, comedians Ken Jeong, Kenan Thompson, and Hasan Minaj, and actors/directors Will Smith, Neil Patrick Harris, and Judd Apatow.

Is it any good?

It would be hard not to be moved by the raw emotion each man brings to telling his story of becoming not just a father, but a dad. Maybe it's appropriate that the daughter of Ron Howard, costar of that quintessential TV portrait of fatherhood, The Andy Griffith Show, would be behind a documentary on Dads. Director Bryce Dallas Howard certainly seems to have found inspiration in her own paternal role models, including dad Ron and grandfather Rance, and she incorporates home movies and testimonies from her own family members into her film. She's also dedicated Dads to Rance, who passed away in 2017, but not before she could capture him on film. Her personal connection to the material, and apparent friendships with the celebrities she interviews, add warmth and sincerity to Howard's direction, helping to offset the reality that celebrities may not represent the most typical experiences.

Howard has also pulled together some riveting case studies of a diversity of non-celebrity dads from varied backgrounds. These stories are further supplemented by clips from home videos from a variety of parents -- some touching and some hilarious, especially where teenage kids are concerned. The film can sometimes feel like it's advocating for a specific enlightened model of parenting, or serving as a pep talk for new or expecting dads (including her brother). That essence is captured in the documentary's tagline: "You got this. Even when you don't."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the subject of this film -- Dads. What does your father mean to you? What do you think is the role of a father?

  • How did the celebrity interviews compliment the profiles of non-celebrity dads? Which story most interested you, and why?

  • What social or parenting differences did you notice in Brazil and Japan? What similarities do all the countries share?

  • What did you think of the director appearing on screen, interviewing her family members and incorporating her own family's home movies, including her birth?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love family tales

Themes & Topics

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