Stream it or skip it?

Father Stu – now on VOD – is Mark Wahlberg’s latest vehicle, and at first glance it appears to be Sincere Wahlberg (think Joe Bell Where patriots day) more than Snarky One-Liner Wahlberg (Unexplored, Spenser Confidential) or Tough Guy Wahlberg (sole survivor, Shooter). But surprise, these are the three Wahlberg characters mixed into one! Father Stu is a BOATS (Based On A True Story, Brother) drama in which he plays a boxer with a quick punch (Tough Guy) but a faster mind (Snarky One-Liner) who goes against expectations and becomes a priest (Sincere) who becomes afflicted with a crippling muscle disorder (making it DOUBLE Sincere). And get it, the movie is also a faith-based movie starring Mel Gibson! It could be a small miracle (Catholic, natch) if not a heavy carnage sinking. Let’s find out.


The essential: We first meet Stuart Long as a boy, doing the Risky business thing to an Elvis record while his gruff, gruff old man Bill (Gibson) growls at him. Years later, Stu is a grown man with a handlebar moustache, ripped to the gills, pummeling guys in the ring and winking at blondes between rounds. Cue a BOXING MONTAGE followed by a visit to the doctor, who says his fighting days are over. His mother, Kathleen (Jacki Weaver), worries about her boy – she lost Stu’s five-year-old brother to a mysterious illness years ago that caused Bill to drink like 100 fish and destroyed the family. And damn it, she doesn’t lose her other son, who sadly goes to his brother’s grave for a chat, then impulsively houses a stone statue of Jesus Christ himself. Stu is in a tailspin, his identity crisis turning him into a champion drunk driver and resisting arrest.

But he has a lame idea: he will move from Montana to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. He gets a job at the butcher counter of a supermarket, thinking that he will meet entertainment people every day. Nyet. But he lands a gig for a mop commercial — and forces his near-charming, cornball-sleaze persona on Carmen (Teresa Ruiz) after he catches her eye one day in the soup aisle. She wants nothing to do with her smarmy ass, so he stalks her to the local catholic church and doesn’t even pretend to be a rampant, unrepentant sinner whose belief in higher powers is buried in the ground with his brother . His perseverance wins over her, and it surely helps that she notices his encores, tris, pecs, and delts when he takes his shirt off to do a baptism. So ! He is Catholic now! As if by magic !

Soon, he seems to be taking faith seriously, and Carmen warms up to him. This doesn’t stop him from going to the bar, and one night a stranger sitting next to him strikes up a conversation, dishing out platitudes as Stu responds with pleasantries. On the way home, Stu falls into terrible motorcycle wreckage and sees the Virgin Mary herself, triggering his ARC OF REDEMPTION, baby! Carmen brings a bible to the hospital and puts her hand on it and he almost instantly wakes up from a coma. Is it a miracle? I am not qualified to answer that. Cue a PRAYER MONTAGE followed by a statement that makes you wonder how hard he hit his head on the sidewalk: “I’m going to be a priest!” To which her mother responds, “For Halloween?” Zing.

Father Stu where to look
Photo: ©Sony Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

What movies will this remind you of? : I think I already covered the three headed beast is the Wahlberg Personae, but forgot to mention that he played a boxer before in The fighter.

Performance to watch: In a role that has two or three good scenes but is mostly thankless, Ruiz has the least overworked presence in the film.

Memorable dialogue: Stu sneaks into the cabin for his very first confession: “I’ve never done this before. Did I just tell the way I screwed up? »

Sex and skin: None: The man upstairs doesn’t approve of us watching such things!

Our opinion : It’s hard not to love Stu for hitting back at platitudes-mongers — until he starts swallowing said platitudes, which feel pulled from a dozen other mid-grade inspirational BOATS movies. And before that, the character is a different collection of cliches, a damaged guy with daddy issues who covers up his pain with a smarm bad-boy veneer. This Stu is a perfectly acceptable person to hang out with for a few hours, Wahlberg graciously cooking up the performance, pushing himself as far as the mundane storyline allows, from Partyguy-Ladykiller (Sex Implied, Never Seen) to Cursin’ Seminar Student. of the Humble Lordservant. You don’t hate the guy as he follows his heavily stomped, Hollywood arc, but neither does he inspire to feel more than a lukewarm investment in his well-being.

Are we talking about Mel Gibson? Do we have to? I don’t know, but it’s an obligation in the air here. He’s an extremist catholic in real life, and he’s playing shit here, an angry, atheist raw food vendor, sitting in a trailer with a pile of empty bottles around him and a gun in his pocket, just waiting to be swept away. Being Jesus-ified – and it’s never convincing in its intensity, as most Mel Gibson performances do, so on, we struggle with that cognitive dissonance. It’s also difficult to sled during a weepy-Wahlberg breakdown scene and his presence later in the film, when large chunks of putty are stuck to his face to signify the character’s post-gym-rat weight gain. . Easier to accept is the film’s proselytizing, which is silent, draped in a layer of big-name performances, R-rated swear words, and a cinematic professionalism you don’t usually get in a cheap Kirk Cameron screed and intellectually vacant or god is not dead; it’s a story of perseverance set in the catholic church, which could really use a ray of light these days. Believers might be ready for this catch-all collection of emotions, but anyone hoping for the moral complexities of, oh, I don’t know, reality find little to chew on here.

Our call: Father Stu is well-less, which isn’t quite enough to merit a recommendation. Take some Pepto for the Mel Gibson stuff, recite three Hail Marys and SKIP IT.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Learn more about his work at

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