(director/writer:Rosalind Ross; cinematographer: Jacques Jouffret; editor: Jeffrey M. Werner; music: Dickon Hinchliffe; cast: Mark Wahlberg (Stuart Long), Mel Gibson (Bill Long), Jacki Weaver (Kathleen Long), Faith Jeffries (Time Keeper), Teresa Ruiz (Carmen), Nikkita Lyons (Time Keeper), Niko Nicotera (barfly), Nikkita Lyons (Time Keeper); Runtime: 124; MPAA Rating: R; producers; Mark Wahlberg, Jordon Foss, Stephen Levinson: Sony Pictures; 2022)

“When it becomes preachy it’s less endearing.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A rambling faith-based drama based on a true story that’s written and directed by first timer Rosalind Ross.

After a near-fatal motorcycle accident, the hard-living baddie Stu Long (Mark Wahlberg) reevaluates his life’s purpose, in God forbid, this forward-looking faith-based drama (it has a broader appeal). The star player Wahlberg calls it his passion project. The co-star Mel Gibson finds that its his chance to work again with his Hollywood peers after his drunken anti-Semite tirade and his controversial anti-Semitic “Passion of the Christ” film upset the Hollywood Jewish community.

Father Stu plays out as a so-so biopic of a Montana clergyman that’s overwrought and unappealing despite a good performance by Wahlberg.

is an aspiring boxer, but a motorcycle accident cripples his dreams. On a whim, the bad-boy relocates to Hollywood to find fame and fortune, leaving behind his overbearing father (Mel Gibson) and his gentle mother (Jacki Weaver).

When he meets in Tinseltown
Carmen (Teresa Ruiz), a devout Catholic Sunday school teacher, the volatile lover boy because of her becomes a regular church goer. During one mass service he curses during confession and makes it known he seeks to be a priest.

Though the parish monsignor (Malcolm McDowell) questions Stu’s motives, he’s accepted by a fellow aspiring priest (Aaron Moten) because he believes God has chosen him because he’s worth saving and that’s good enough for him.

Stu finds his way to the cloth, but comes down
with a debilitating muscle disease that threatens his life.

Wahlberg goes all out to be convincing, even gaining 30 pounds for the part. The priest’s working-class roots makes him a sympathetic figure, but the film tugs too hard at the heart-strings for me to give it my blessing.

When it becomes preachy it’s less endearing, and when avoiding to deal with issues over morality complexities it completely loses me. The earnest but muddled film drove me away from its religious story even if it has the nerve to diss the Catholic Church for being so close-minded.

REVIEWED ON 4/21/2022  GRADE: C+