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With: Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson, Jacki Weaver, Teresa Ruiz, Niko Nicotera, Faith Jeffries, Cody Fern, Chiquita Fuller, Ned Bellamy, Malcolm McDowell
Written by: Rosalind Ross
Directed by: Rosalind Ross
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout
Running Time: 124
Date: 04/15/2022

Father Stu (2022)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Brutus Priest

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This ill-conceived, frequently irritating biopic trots out every stale old genre chestnut while focusing on a relentlessly unlikable protagonist, who comes across as a stubborn, argumentative bully.

Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) is a small-time boxer who is diagnosed with a jaw injury. His mother (Jacki Weaver) insists that he quit, although an angry Stuart still believes he has something to prove to his estranged, hard-drinking father (Mel Gibson). He takes a job at the butcher counter of a supermarket, where he spots Carmen (Teresa Ruiz) and begins pursuing her.

He learns that she attends a Catholic Church. He finds her there, and to win her heart, he begins attending regularly and even agrees to a baptism. After a drunken motorcycle accident that nearly claims his life, he feels a calling to become a priest. He throws himself into his studies in seminary, but fate strikes again when he is diagnosed with a rare degenerative muscular disorder. Nevertheless, he continues to fight to achieve his calling.

Covering sports, faith, and disease, Father Stu might have been chosen by a computer program in an attempt to get its lead actor an Oscar nomination, and Wahlberg gives it 110%. He packed on 30 pounds, slipped into prosthetic makeup, and poses for many, many closeups (so close the seams of his makeup are visible). There are even shots of women admiring his muscular boxer's physique. But his transformation from a pugilist to a man of the cloth is a flatline. Even when discussing faith, his method involves little more than arguing and badgering until his opponent backs down.

That method is also used to win poor Carmen, even though she initially tells him "no," making him look like a stalker. As for the film, writer and director Rosalind Ross (in her feature debut) makes other curious choices. The editing is disorienting, and we often have no idea when or where we are. Characters from Montana regularly drop in on characters from California, and vice-versa, with no indication as to how they got there, or which "where" it is. And we rarely have any idea what year it is, except when Stu's mug shot states the year 1994.

Additionally Father Stu is peppered with too many weepy songs, as well as a smattering of backwards logic, including some homophobia. If the real Stuart Long, who passed away in 2014, was an inspiration to many, this movie is the opposite.

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