“Father Stu,” primarily based on the true story of an unbelievable journey from boxer to priest, was an ardor venture for Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson, each religious Catholic. And generally, the issue with an ardor venture is that the part of the story they wish to inform is just not essentially the message they wish to ship.
The actual Father Stu started life as Stu Lengthy, the son of an abusive, largely absent father (Mel Gibson as Invoice) and a well-meaning however ineffectual mom (Jacki Weaver as Kathleen). We glimpse Stu briefly as a baby, attempting to get his father’s approval as he imitates Elvis Presley. After which we skip forward to Stu, now performed by Wahlberg, as a boxer whose profession has resulted in additional accidents than trophies and extra trophies than cash. Stu has a whole lot of dedication, however, when it’s clear he can’t combat anymore, he redirects that single-minded dedication to an excellent unlikelier objective—he decides to go to Hollywood to turn into a film star. There he sees a phenomenal woman named Carmen (Teresa Ruiz) who may be very concerned with the Catholic Church. At first, he pretends to have an interest to get near her however ultimately, following a really critical bike accident, he realizes that he’s referred to as the priesthood.
There’s a scene within the movie the place Stu, learning however not but ordained, visits a jail as part of his coaching, together with a fellow seminarian who’s within the film solely for distinction. Whereas Stu is impetuous, assured, and blunt, however open-hearted, the opposite seminarian is studious, sober, and, in terms of Stu, condescending. It’s not a shock that Stu is ready to connect with the boys in jail extra simply than the scholar who’s actually holier-than-thou. Sadly, this primary scene reveals to us how Father Stu related to others in sharing his religion takes so long to reach and is over shortly. His interactions with the crusty and skeptical Monsignor Kelly, the seminary’s rector (Malcolm McDowell) are additionally unsatisfying as a result of we by no means seeing how their relationship modifications after Stu convinces him to let him enroll.
How Father Stu is a priest is extra necessary than how he obtained there. However, the getting there may be how the film spends most of its time. And even Wahlberg’s film star charisma and irresistible smile can’t make that a part of the movie work. The problem in telling a life story in a two-hour film is to pick out these moments which might be most consequential and eliminate people who distract from the theme. The actual-life Stu confronted many issues and challenges, however, the script appears to be designed around what can be enjoyable for Gibson and Wahlberg to behave. There’s additionally a pre-occupation with mortification of the flesh relatively than which would transfer the story ahead by illuminating Stu’s religious growth.
Different scenes muddle the story’s progress and will not be as favorable a portrayal of Stu’s values because the film thinks they’re. He’s by no means accountable for hurting Carmen after she thinks they’ll get married. One other seminarian confesses to Father Stu that he would not actually really feel referred to as to the priesthood however the dialog is introduced extra as some type of win for Stu than as a manner for Stu to supply some steerage to the particular person asking him for assist. We additionally get welcome glimpses of the actual Stu over the credit and a much less welcome additional scene with Wahlberg to remind us of Stu’s goofy adventures earlier than getting the decision.
St. Augustine famously mentioned, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” That appears to be the strategy of Wahlberg (who financed the movie himself when he couldn’t curiosity a studio) and Gibson (whose romantic associate, Rosalind Ross, wrote and directed, most likely the rationale he was allowed to overact all through). As we generally see with folks dedicated to extremely structured spiritual faiths, Gibson and Wahlberg are extra within the “not yet” sinning elements of the story, that are acted with a heightened relish that’s not balanced by its scenes of redemption. This undermines the very message they’re attempting to ship. Father Stu understood how to connect with skeptics and non-believers. As a substitute for reaching broader viewers, Wahlberg and Gibson preach to the choir.