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Reviews for April 13th, 2022

Father Stu

Directed by Rosalind Ross




      Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) follows his doctor's orders by retiring from his boxing career when his body can no longer keep up with the sport and he would risk dying if he continued to box. Despite the discouragement from his mother, Katheleen (Jacki Weaver), Stu pursues a career as an actor and moves to Los Angeles where his estranged, alcoholic father, Bill (Mel Gibson), happens to live there. While working as a butcher, he sets his eyes on a customer, Carmen (Teresa Ruiz), and instantly pursues her even though she rejects him. He goes to her church despite being agnostic, and soon finds inspiration to be baptised and to become a priest after getting injured in a motorcycle accident.

      Father Stu bites off a lot more than it could chew. The screenplay by writer/director Rosalind Ross blends romance, inspirational drama, dysfunctional family drama, dark comedy and Lifetime disease-of-the-week movie. Very little actually works because the film feels like 4 movies rolled into one with schmaltz and preachiness in tow. The dark humor, i.a. Father Stu imagining himself beating up a priest is marginally funny, but it belongs in a satire, not in a biopic. A casting director hits on him during an audition, he gets injured in motorcycle accident, gets diagnosed with a terminal illness called nclusion body myositis, and still tries to woo Carmen. Their relationship from the get-go ranges from creepy to cheesy. He's quite agressive in the way that he pursues and even stalks her in church when he learns that he can find her there. Unfortunately, Stu's character arc as he finds spiritual awakening redemption by becoming a priest doesn't feel organic. The same can be said about the underdeveloped relationship between him and his toxic father. The relationship between him and his mother is better fleshed out, though. He's clearly more of a momma's boy and calls her often. When Stu gets diagnosed with the terminal illness, that's when the film takes a steeper nosedive as it becomes increasingly clunky, preachy and maudlin.

      Mark Wahlberg tries his best to rise above the weak screenplay, but he's not at his best here. Joe Bell showcased his acting abilities much more effectively. Mel Gibson is fine and so is Jacki Weaver. Teresa Ruiz gives a less convincing performance and lacks chemistry with Mark Wahlberg, so the inevitable romantic scenes between Stu and her character fall flat. Even the directing itself feels flat with awkward editing and some scenes that last too long. In yet another subplot, a bishop (Malcoln McDowell), agrees to take on Stu as a priest and the two develop a budding friendship, yet the screenplay squanders the opportunity to delve into that. MacDowell oozes charisma like he usually does. It's nice to see him in a role that's very different from his role as the devil in American Satan, a far more profound and powerful film about a man battling ┬áhis demons and overcoming adversity. At a running time of 2 hour and 4 minutes, which feels more like 3 hours, Father Stu is clunky, contrived and uneven while simultaneously overstuffed and undercooked.

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by Columbia Pictures.
Opens nationwide