If there is one genre of film that Hollywood as an industry stays away from it is Christian movies.

To say Hollywood has a disdain for Christians is like saying Bills fans are not fond of Tom Brady. There is no better example of the discrepancy between critics and audience than looking at the Rotten Tomatoes score of any Christian film. You can’t expect those who believe that children aged 4-8 can be transgender to have a favorable view of Christ, it goes without saying.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – APRIL 05: Mark Wahlberg attends a special screening of Father Stu with Mark Wahlberg and Rosalind Ross at AMC Boston Commons on April 05, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images For Sony)

Mark Wahlberg found out this lesson the hard way when he was forced to spend millions of dollars on financing the film ‘Father Stu’ because he couldn’t find a backer to fund the project.

Wahlberg talked about his issues with funding the movie, “I slipped the script to a couple of people that I thought maybe would get it, and they didn’t. And obviously, it’s subjective. You have your own feeling of what the material is. Some people thought it was depressing because he’s sick at the end. They didn’t see the heart and the emotion and, ultimately, how inspiring it is.”

HELENA, MONTANA – APRIL 04: Mark Wahlberg attends a special screening of FATHER STU at Cinemark Theatre on April 04, 2022 in Helena, Montana. (Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images for Sony Pictures)

He decided to take the same gamble his costar Mel Gibson did when Gibson put in $30 million of his own money to finance “The Passion of the Christ,” which went on to become the highest grossing Christian movie of all time.

While ‘Father Stu’ likely won’t reach the success that Mel Gibson established, Mark Wahlberg’s passion project hopes to shine the light on the unknown story of Father Stuart Long.

The Story

Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) in Columbia Pictures’ FATHER STU.

Set in the 1980s, Wahlberg plays Stuart Long, a failed boxer who was forced to retire due to multiple injuries. Stu has an estranged relationship with his father Bill (Mel Gibson) and a difficult relationship with his mother (Jacki Weaver).

Stu decides to try his hand at acting so he packs up and moves to Los Angeles with dreams of being a TV star. Stu’s plans don’t pan out as he gets hit on by a male casting agent. 

Carmen (Teresa Ruiz) and Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) in Columbia Pictures’ FATHER STU.

Things are looking down until one day working in the meat department, he meets a Hispanic woman named Carmen (Teresa Ruiz). Stu desperately tries to get a date but Carmen isn’t interested in a man who doesn’t share her faith so he decides to follow her to church.

Stu begins to take interest in the Word of God and begins to turn his life around until a life-altering event causes him to head towards a new path. Stu decides to become a Priest at the protest of his parents and his new love. However, he is convinced that this is his destiny and goes headfirst into his newfound faith until yet another curveball threatens to end his journey before it starts.

Bright Spots

Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) with his mother Kathleen Long (Jacki Weaver) in Columbia Pictures’ FATHER STU.

‘Father Stu’ as a movie is a character study about a man whose faith is tested in ways that few have ever experienced. Wahlberg plays an arrogant yet determined man whose ambitions consume his day-to-day life for better or worse. Despite his shortcomings, he is a man who refuses to accept the idea of failure until the day that his body quits on him.

When his quest begins no one believes his faith to be true but by the end of his journey they are surprised at how strong it is. The movie has an endless supply of drama that you wouldn’t have believed if it wasn’t a true story.

Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) in Columbia Pictures’ FATHER STU.

Stu is run through the gauntlet of dealing with his deadbeat father, the loss of his boxing career, a terrible accident, and then a life-changing illness all within the course of a few years. The film’s journey is through a series of life-changing events and the lessons that are learned along the way.

Mel Gibson is in the film as Stu’s dad and it’s safe to say that Gibson puts more heart into his performance given the subject matter. Gibson plays a vital role as a father who goes through his own rough journey through the events of his son. The performances are strong enough from both actors and Wahlberg shows his commitment to the role by gaining 30 pounds to portray Stu in the film.

Weak Spots

Bill Long (Mel Gibson) in Columbia Pictures’ FATHER STU.

The biggest hanging point of the film is the overall pacing. The movie sets up what are four separate chapters of Stu’s life. Each chapter gets roughly 30-minutes in detail pushing the runtime to over 2 hours whereas a 15-20 minute clean-up in editing could have improved the film’s quality.

For a passion project, Wahlberg wanted to give as much detail on Stu’s life as possible but he would have been better off keeping more focus on the story at hand. Another issue in the storytelling is the film doesn’t spend as much time on Stu’s impact as a Priest.

Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) in Columbia Pictures’ FATHER STU.

The movie chooses to focus on Stu’s road to redemption instead of his impact on the lives of those in his community which is a missed opportunity to have a more lasting impact on the viewer.

The film makes for a great origin story but leaves a lot on the table that could have had a deeper connection with audiences.

The Verdict

‘Father Stu’ seeks to be an inspiring story about a man’s strength in his faith and the film achieves that with strong performances and a solid screenplay. While far from the best Christian film, ‘Father Stu’ is one of the better efforts the genre has produced in the last few years.

For more movie reviews by Jacob Smith, follow Society-Reviews.com 

Father Stu Review: Mark Wahlberg's Passion Project Overcomes Adversity In More Ways Than One
  • An Incredible Character Study
  • Solid Acting From A Good Cast
  • Strong Messaging About Perseverance
  • Poor Editing
  • Not Enough Detail About Stu's Later Life
  • Bloated Runtime
7Overall Score
Reader Rating: (6 Votes)
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