#REVIEW: “FATHER STU”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
Based on a true story and starring Mark Wahlberg in the titular role, the first five minutes of FATHER STU offer a slew of movie clichés. From the young son listening to the drunken ramblings of his redneck father to the spitting of blood in a bucket during a boxing match, the audience will immediately know they are in for a heavy-handed, albeit a well-intentioned flick.
When Stuart Long (Wahlberg) is told by his Doctor that if he continues to be pummeled as an Amateur Boxer, he will most certainly die young. Shiftless and unskilled, Long decides to move to Hollywood to capitalize on his good looks and buff body and become a Movie Star. With the support and blessings from his mother (an effective Jacki Weaver), Stuart arrives in La La Land where, with an unimpressive resume and work experiences, he ultimately finds a job working at the butcher shop. There he is thunderstruck with a young Hispanic woman (Teresa Ruiz shines despite an underdeveloped and unwritten character), they meet, and she convinces him to get baptized. After surviving a horrific motorcycle accident, Stuart comes to the realization that he should use this second chance at life for good and become a priest. Whereas there is much to commend, with the slightly over two-hour running time, FATHER STU falters with its too rapid exposition and tonal shifts.
It is laudable that Mark Wahlberg continues to stretch and challenge his Movie Star persona, his investment in the title role is valiant. Not only did he produce the movie, but Wahlberg also went the Robert DeNiro in “Raging Bull” route and gained a significant amount of weight which – pardon the pun – gave the character heft and depth. FATHER STU also gives Mel Gibson the opportunity to remind audiences what a compelling Actor he is. Playing Stuart’s alcoholic father, he takes a cliché-ridden character to unapologetic admirable heights. Malcolm McDowell also shines in a smaller role as a Monsignor who holds Stuart’s dream to be a Priest in his hands.
Writer/Director Rosalind Ross may be faulted for trying to take too many stories and characters from Long’s personal life story and make it coherent. Some choices made my eyes roll; in particular the scene in a bar where Stu is lectured by a man who looks like Jesus Christ and when he is looked over by the Virgin Mary immediately after the motorcycle crash. FATHER STU feels rushed which makes it unsatisfying. I also feel that the abundance of F-bombs in the Script may alienate the audience that support faith-based movies.
While it has lofty ambitions, the final result didn’t us feeling inspired. Sony Pictures Canada release FATHER STU in theatre April 13, 2022.