Barrett Brief Movie Review-Father Stu Overcomes Weak Early Rounds To Score Impressive Victory

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Barrett Brief Movie Review – Father Stu Overcomes Weak Early Rounds To Score Impressive Victory (3 out 4 briefcases)

Summary: Follows the life of Father Stuart Long, a boxer-turned-priest who inspired countless people during his journey from self-destruction to redemption.

Genre: Drama

The Christian movie. Nothing strikes more fear/hope in a Catholic than the promise of a film they can go see that is actually uplifting and inspirational. Many have tired and just as many have failed, depending on who you talk to you. Now comes along Father Stu, a collaboration between two of the most well known, openly Catholic men in Hollywood, Mark Wahlberg (Father Stu) and Mel Gibson (playing his father Bill Long). As my friend and colleague Christopher Laurence stated “If Mel and Wahlberg can’t get it done than no one can”. The anticipation surrounding this film in Catholic circles only seemed to increase with the news that Mark Wahlberg ended up funding the project himself after being turned down by several studios. Surely if they don’t want to touch it, then it must be good, right? Well, I just walked out of the film, and I am have mixed feelings. While Father Stu knocks it out of the park in the 2nd and 3rd acts, the overall impact of the film is almost muted by a weak first act.

When The Set Up Hurts The Payoff  

Father Stu is based on the life of Stuart Long, a man who seems to be a spiritual vagabond, drifting from one dream to another. What he was best at was being a boxer, until that dream is taken from him, a turn that his mother Kathleen Long (Jacki Weaver) hopes will allow him to find honest work. However, Stu decides that he is going to be an actor and moves out to Hollywood. He struggles until he meets Carmen (Teresa Ruiz) who he chooses to pursue. Being Catholic, she lets him know in no uncertain terms that nothing will happen before marriage and she wants to be with a practicing Catholic. This starts his road to Catholicism. After a fateful night of drinking, he gets into a nearly fatal accident. In the aftermath of it, Stu decides he is going to be a priest, which Carmen is not happy about. It is during his time in the seminary that he receives as diagnosis of inclusion body myositis (IBM), an extremely rare and incurable autoimmune disease that mimics the symptoms of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). By the time he was ordained (in 2007) his body was a shell of its former self. Having to use a wheelchair to get around. In his final years he was sent to Big Sky Care Center in Helena, MT, where he ministered until his death in 2014.

That what the movie focuses on, his run up to becoming a priest. I had hoped that there would be more a focus on his inspiration acts after becoming a priest. Alas, the script, written by director Rosalind Ross choose to focus on the lead up. I understand the thinking behind this, to see that God calls us all and redemption is never beyond his reach. For me, some of this was unnecessary. The message could have be conveyed in a more efficient manner. The movie is 124 minutes long and 10 minutes of it could have been cut and dispersed throughout the rest of the film. Once Stu steps in the Church for the first time, the movie become more alive, and the pace picks up. Wahlberg’s performance in the latter half of the film is very relatable and well done. The second half of the film we get more of Bill Long (Mel Gibson) which helps bring more life to the film. The backend of this film is very good, but the meandering of the 1st act does not help with the eventual payoff. 

Also, there is a lot of cussing. I mean, for a Catholic movie, A LOT. Once again, I understand this motivation, but it severely limits the films reach. 

 The Cast

This is the most well rounded performance that Wahlberg has ever given. Known for the cool guy, monotone performances, he gives Stu charisma, determination, struggle & perseverance. You can see him channeling the trouble youth that he once had in in Boston and even when he becomes a priest, that edginess never goes away. The body transformation and dedication to the appearance of IBM all show off this performance. Mel Gibson is Mel Gibson. The man still has the screen presence and gravitate to carry any scene he wants, I enjoyed every moment of his time on screen. Teresa Ruiz is very good as the woman who brings him to the Church only to get left behind by his discovery of faith. Jacki Weaver plays the strung out mother to perfection. Malcolm McDowell turn as Monsignor Kelly was a bit distracting, didn’t to fit. The rest of the cast did fine in their respective roles. 

Highs & Lows

Highs: Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson, Positioning of the Catholic Faith

Lows: Meandering 1st Act. 


While Father Stu knocks it out of the park in the 2nd and 3rd acts, the overall impact of the film is almost muted by a weak first act.


3 out 4 briefcases (albeit a weak 3)

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Written by: LoneRhody

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Thanks for the review. I think I will plan on seeing it.

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