This biopic has faith, humor, and commitment for the most part.
I made the right decision to skip “Daddy’s Home 2, which starred Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson as a father and son. Now, for the first time in five years, they reunite for “Father Stu,” which is one of the few recent religious films to not succumb to bad filmmaking or bad acting. Matter of fact, they’re filled with smart and sometimes funny dialogue, well intentions, and a nice introduction for writer/director Rosalind Ross.
It’s not a perfect movie (I can’t lie in a movie review about a religious film), because it’s a little too long and routine, but it does have its strengths and weaknesses, which must be dealt with. It’s a small movie with a big heart, released just in time for Easter.
Based on a true story, we meet the atheist boxer Stuart Long, or Stu (Wahlberg) for short, who reaches a point in his life when he decides to become an actor. Of course, he would try to be, and that’s why he must also work in the deli section of a grocery store. Twice in a row I’ve seen a would-be star work in a grocery store after “American Underdog,” not that I have a problem.
He also stalks a young Mexican woman named Carmen (Teresa Ruiz from “The Marksman”), who attends a local Catholic Church. She doesn’t like him, because of his troublesome nature, but he agrees to get himself baptized, and she warms up to him.
Half the love story seems forced and labored, especially when it seems like a stalking story, while the other half has its moments, especially during the film’s second side.
In his family life, his brother passed away, his mother (Jacki Weaver) wants Stu to do better, and his alcoholic construction working father Bill (Gibson) is full of disability slurs and hurtful words. If I could talk to him, I’d say: “Don’t be a dick.” About them being atheists, at least, they’re not as irritable or humiliating as in “God’s Not Dead,” which had a frozen heart. And plus, daddy could use a little redemption of his own.
Then, Stu ends up in a motorcycle accident and is given a second chance at life. He decides to become a priest, which both his girlfriend and family think he’s crazy to try to be. But he’s persistent to become one, even convincing the Monsignor (Malcolm McDowell) to give him a chance to practice. It also becomes challenging for him, when he suffers from a muscle disease, known as inclusion body myositis (IBM).
Again, “Father Stu” is a little long and sometimes routine, but it does feature realism and heart, and I liked how Wahlberg is able to meet his age. “Uncharted” has become a box office hit, but this is the better Wahlberg movie to see. It has a lead, who transcends from one person to the next, in regards to his real-life character’s disability, and it shows us the true colors inside the trouble and anger.
I know it sounds generic, but I still admired the supporting role from Gibson, who has the kind of gritty attitude as the mean father. Both he and Wahlberg have their aspects and ages, and they try to overcome the formulas that have rocked the foundation of our movie-going experience. Unlike “Daddy’s Home 2,” which I skipped and knew would be atrocious, these two don’t stoop to new lows, and provide sincerity.
In summation, Wahlberg and Gibson are both the reasons why “Father Stu” works on its own terms. It had rules to follow, and lessons to learn. Same old stuff, but what are we gonna do? Just roll with it.