Father Stu - B
Rated R, 124 minutes
The familiar, yet charming new drama "Father Stu" is about changes, second chances and redemption to those who have fallen hard. Well-acted, funny and more profane than you might believe for a film about a priest, it's nothing new but is a constant reminder to make good use of the second chances we're given.
When an injury ends his amateur boxing career, Stuart Long ("Uncharted's" Mark Wahlberg) moves to Los Angeles to find money and fame. While scraping by as a supermarket clerk, he meets Carmen (Teresa Ruiz), and the longtime agnostic starts going to church to impress her. However, a terrible motorcycle accident leaves him wondering if he can use his second chance to help others, leading to the surprising realization that he's meant to be a Catholic priest, a move that shocks everyone, including his gruff, divorced parents (Oscar-nominee Jacki Weaver and Mel Gibson).
The touching "Father Stu" is based on the true story of the late Fr. Stuart Long, who led a rough life as a boxer, supermarket clerk and even actor, before becoming a priest, who then become ill with a rare muscular disorder. A personal project for years for Wahlberg, it's directed and written by Rosalind Ross in her feature film debut. Ross has an even hand, though she occasionally makes rookie mistakes, namely incorporating too many characters and subplots, and trying too hard to portray Long as rough-and-tumble before the big change. On that note, those believing "Father Stu" is a family, faith-based film along the lines of "I Can Only Imagine" should think again: it's filled with a surprising amount of profanity, the chief reason the film is Rated R.
Weaver and Gibson steal most of the scenes they're in as Stuart's hard-living parents, particularly Gibson, who casts a gruff shell as Stuart's tough, alcoholic father, who finds his own redemption along the way. Even with some of its "Father Stu" is a charming film, filled with some funny, touching moments, and a transformative performance from Wahlberg, who isn't known for his transformative performances of the many, many real people he's portrayed over the years.
"Father Stu" is not only about second chances, but making wise use of the time we have with those second chances. Long's story is a worthy one, carrying some touching messages and a sincere turn from Wahlberg. Stay over to the credits to hear and see the real Father Stu, whose words are just as impactful as the film.