The prospect of an even nominally faith-based film will give certain audiences an allergic reaction regardless of whatever content or merits the actual piece has. One way filmmakers could in theory get around this is by offering a distinctly harder-edged alternative to religious-centric stories. Enter this Mark Wahlberg vanity project directed by Mel Gibson’s girlfriend ( and featuring the man himself as the protagonist’s alcoholic father) based on the “ inspiring” True story of Father Stuart Long. The criminal bad knuckle boxer who eventually became a dedicated Catholic priest before his diagnosis of Motor Neuron Disease and death far too young.
The thing this film taught me as a viewer is if you want to make A religious movie with rough edges cast actors that can so easily slide into caricature. No getting around it the first half of this film feels like an R-rated sketch/parody of “inspiration porn” narratives. At its best one might say that director Rosalind Ross is going for a very poor man’s David O Russell impression. At its worst, It’s like an R-rated version of Andy Samberg’s “Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals” sketch. Instead, he’s now convincing the animals to become Catholic.
Another early scene early on has Mel Gibson being hyper-aggressive as he is stuck in traffic ending with him throwing out a slur to the person in the car next to him. All of this is jointly and jovially soundtracked as the piano line to Dolly Parton’s 9 To 5 comes in. This watcher felt ashamed for getting an incredibly dark but very hearty laugh from the juxtaposition. It once again brings up the question of whether or not the filmmakers have any self-awareness whatsoever when putting this thing together. This writer honestly isn’t sure.
In its second half, the things change family drastically playing up the More respectable religious side of the narrative. The problem is the tonal shift is decidedly earnest and very much at odds with what the film was trying to do in its opening stretches. Thus it’s in a weird nether region. Too close to parody in its attempt to offer a hard-edged version of these kinds of projects. Also far too earnest in the delivery once it gets past a cerin to appeal to anyone beyond the hardcore religious conservatives who would support media like this. It’s a very odd mixture that never comes close to coalescing in the way the filmmakers envisioned.
Father Stu is a decidedly odd beast. Far too close to dark comedy in its attempt to offer a harsher take on this kind of faith narrative. Yet far too sappy and earnest to appeal to anyone beyond the typical audience for this kind of story. The piece has already been a deserved box office bomb. There’s no reason to give it any kind of validity.