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Father Stu Review

April 15, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Father Stu - Mark Wahlberg Image Credit: Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures
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Father Stu Review  

Directed By: Rosalind Ross
Written By: Rosalind Ross
Runtime: 124 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated R for language throughout

Mark Wahlberg – Stuart Long
Mel Gibson – Bill Long
Jacki Weaver – Mrs. Long
Teresa Ruiz – Carmen
Aaron Moten – Ham
Malcolm McDowell – Monsignor

Father Stu is a new faith-based drama based on the true story and journey of Stuart Long. As a star vehicle and passion project for Mark Wahlberg, it’s clear to see why this story caught his interest. Writer-director Rosalind Ross makes her feature directorial debut for a film that’s fairly compelling and poignant, while at times rough around the edges.

Mainly set in the period of the mid-1990s, young amateur boxer Stuart Long (Wahlberg) is forced to end his fight career due to injury that destroyed all hope boxing ever again. He decides to pursue acting and moves to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a superstar. While not a religious type, Stu starts volunteering at a Catholic church to impress a devout, young Sunday school teacher, Carmen (Ruiz), who he meets shortly after he arrives in LA___. Although Stuart is a bit on the uncouth side, his smooth-talking game and charm eventually win her over, despite his vices.

After surviving a devastating motorcycle accident where he was impeded by alcohol, Stu survives and receives what he believes is a form of divine intervention. Stu’s epiphany grants him a new purpose: to join the seminary and become a Catholic priest. Despite the doubts of his friends and family, Stu has finds true calling, and he is determined to see his mission through.

Father Stu is anchored by a strong performance by Mark Wahlberg. He imbues Stuart with a believable, rugged small-town charm. It is understandable why Stuart gets himself into so many scrapes that are often precipitated by his own mistakes. However, Stu has enough of a unique charisma despite his tendency to get into trouble.

The rest of the film is well-cast, with Jacki Weaver as Stuart’s supportive, but often concerned, mother. Weaver’s performance is very genuine and believable, and she shines in this story. A major secondary plot involves Mel Gibson as Stuart’s estranged father, Bill.

In all honesty, it’s a good performance by Mel Gibson, though the film does tend to dwell a bit too much on Bill’s redemptive story arc. This is the area where Father Stu could have used a more subtle technique. Regardless, Bill and Stuart share a nice dynamic, and their relationship provides an important message about forgiveness.

Father Stu errs in its tendency to rush through Stu’s life transitions during his journey. There could have been a greater sense of his embracing religion and finding new purpose and meaning. There is also footage in the closing credits that suggests there was further material to explore in Stu’s attempts to pursue a career in show business that could have rounded out the plot.

The faith-based aspects of the film are prevalent throughout the film. Mileage on the reception of the religious themes and messages may vary. However, the focus on Stu’s journey gives the film a strong emotional anchor. The film does get predictable in the way period biopics of this type often do. One such example is a scene where Stu and one of his more adversarial foils teach a class of prison inmates. These are scenes where Father Stu comes off as manipulative. Sometimes, the more religious scenes are executed in a rather heavy-handed manner.

Father Stu is no masterpiece, but it’s a decent period drama and examination of a real person, featuring a strong performance by Mark Wahlberg.

The final score: review Average
The 411
Despite its rather obvious title, it seems Sony Pictures has been underselling this movie, yet the reason is understandable. Father Stu is surprisingly respectable, with some solid performances. It's a watchable first-time effort for director Rosalind Ross.