'Father Stu' Movie Review: Mark Wahlberg's Faith-Based Film Brings The Star Power

father stu movie review mark wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg once again taps into a true story for a starring role. While an inspirational faith-based film, FATHER STU is all over the map in tone and the storytelling is often lazy. You will, however, shed a tear because you are invested in Stu’s journey and the A-list cast.

Based on the true story of Stewart Long, Mark Wahlberg stars as Stu, who found his life‘s purpose by becoming a priest. When an injury ends Stu’s amateur boxing career, he moves to Los Angeles to become an actor. There he meets a catechism teacher (Teresa Ruiz) who introduces him to the Catholic faith. After a life-threatening motorcycle accident, he feels compelled to serve God and enters the priesthood.

The film also stars Mel Gibson as his father and Jackie Weaver as his mother while Narcos Mexico’s Teresa Ruiz plays his girlfriend.

Wahlberg plays a familiar role as a charming bad boy. He teams up with DADDY’S HOME 2 costar Mel Gibson once again playing his father. Like in the aforementioned collaboration, their relationship is strained. Stu’s mom (Weaver), isn’t very supportive of Stu’s whims.

While it’s billed as a drama, the first half is a comedy about a guy stumbling through life figuring out what to do with himself. It’s not particularly compelling but the humor keeps you interested.

Stu’s courtship with the catechism teacher played by Teresa Ruiz lacks chemistry which apparently works out for the film since he essentially dumps her for God. At this point, the story stalls as Stu becomes familiar with the teachings of the Catholic Faith through Carmen, and we go through the motions.

The crux of the story in the third act is rushed through, and Father Stu’s legacy is short-changed. The first two acts could’ve been condensed since most events felt very miscellaneous.

Once he is diagnosed with a health condition that will affect his motor skills, Stu’s life is about to change in a heartbreaking way but the viewer isn’t afforded the chance to see it play out. You will shed tears but writer/director Rosalind Ross doesn’t allow the character’s emotional journey to naturally progress. For someone who is so self-centered, Stu’s acceptance of his illness comes too easily. Stating it’s God’s will and not having any doubts about your new faith doesn’t seem plausible or human.

Stu’s illness progresses very quickly in the movie often with jarring effects. Wahlberg gained weight to play the ailing Priest but we jump to various states of his illness without much context or emotional depth. It was a wasted opportunity for Mark Wahlberg to play a character unlike any other in his career.

Other than one quick scene, we are told this servant of God became an inspirational figure to many but we don’t see the extent. The last Act is just lazy writing and rushed.

It’s understandable that Mark Wahlberg who spearheaded the passion project, wanted to tell a story about redemption but Father Stu’s story in Act 3 is much more compelling.

FATHER STU is an entertaining and inspirational movie but it may get more eyeballs on a streaming platform rather than a theatrical release.  

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