By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Un-inspirational biopic has swearing, intense crash.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
On the surface, the movie's themes are meant to be inspirational. A character turns his life around and devotes himself to helping others. But the movie is so abrasive that these themes don't always feel earned.
Positive Role Models
Theoretically, Father Stu is a positive role model, especially for the way he doesn't let his condition (a progressive muscle disorder called inclusion body myositis) stop him from achieving his dream and helping others. But the way that he bullies, argues, and pushes his way through every situation makes him difficult to like.
Main character has a progressive muscle disorder called inclusion body myositis; the condition doesn't prevent him from pursuing his dream and helping others, portrayed positively. But a key Latina character is portrayed exclusively as a romantic interest for him, succumbing to his relentless, stalker-ish pursuit of her. And when a casting director asks Stu for oral sex in exchange for a role, Stu reacts homophobically, with rage and violence. One positive Black character in seminary, but his role is limited, seems only to react and relate to Stu.
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Violence & Scariness
Intense motorcycle crash: Character is thrown from vehicle and run over by car. Boxing sequences with bloody cuts and wounds, spitting blood. A bar fight involves punches and a kick to the head. Person punches a priest in fantasy sequence, resulting in a bloody face. Character punches stone statue, bloody knuckles shown. Person punches video camera. Police officer hits someone in the eye with a flashlight.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Woman climbs on top of man and kisses him; sex is suggested. Flirting. Brief sexual situation. Sex-related dialogue. Shirtless male. Kissing.
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Extremely strong, frequent language includes "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," the "N" word, "goddamn," "ass," "bitch," "son of a bitch," "damn," "hell," "pr--k," "d--k," "balls," "idiot," "inbred," "halfwit," "retard," and "crapper," plus exclamatory use of "God," "Jesus."
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Products & Purchases
Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, Yellowstone whiskey cans and bottles shown. Brands seen in background during supermarket sequences include Grape-Nuts, SpaghettiOs, etc. Lucky Charms mentioned. Crisco shown.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A secondary character is said to have an alcohol dependency; he regularly drinks whiskey. Stu drinks beer, gets drunk in bar. Drunk driving, alcohol-related motor vehicle accident. Cigarette smoking. Scene in an AA meeting.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Father Stu is a biopic about Stuart "Stu" Long (Mark Wahlberg), a former boxer who decided to become a priest and was then diagnosed with a progressive muscle disorder called inclusion body myositis. While it's clearly meant to be inspirational, the movie is instead abrasive and irritating, with a lot of mature content. Violence includes a graphic traffic accident: A man is thrown from a motorcycle and then run over by a car, sustaining bloody wounds. There are also violent boxing sequences with more blood, and Stu punches several people (and objects). Extremely strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," the "N" word, and more. Stu drinks beer, gets drunk, and drives, and a secondary character is said to have an alcohol dependency (there's a scene at an AA meeting). Characters smoke cigarettes, and there are sexual situations, sex-related dialogue, flirting, kissing, etc. Note: This review is for the original R-rated version; an alternate cut also known as Father Stu: Reborn is rated PG-13.
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Based on 19 parent reviews
How Jesus transforms your pain, suffering and uses it for good!
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Great message. A lot of cursing.
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What's the Story?
In FATHER STU, Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) is a small-time boxer whose mother (Jacki Weaver) insists that he quit fighting -- although an angry Stuart still believes he has something to prove to his estranged, hard-drinking father (Mel Gibson). Stu takes a job at a supermarket butcher counter, where he spots Carmen (Teresa Ruiz) and starts pursuing her. He learns that she attends a Catholic church and finds her there. To win her heart, he begins attending regularly and even agrees to a baptism. After a drunken motorcycle accident nearly claims his life, Stu feels a calling to become a priest. He throws himself into his studies at seminary, but fate strikes again when he's diagnosed with a progressive muscle disorder called inclusion body myositis. Nevertheless, he continues to fight to achieve his calling.
Is It Any Good?
This ill-conceived, frequently irritating biopic trots out every stale genre chestnut while focusing on a relentlessly unlikable main character who comes across as a stubborn, argumentative bully. Covering sports, faith, and disease, Father Stu feels like it might have been chosen by a computer program in an attempt to get its lead actor an Oscar nomination. Wahlberg definitely gives it 110%. He packed on 30 pounds for the part, slipped into prosthetic makeup, and posed for many, many close-ups (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 Stu no -- which makes him look like a stalker.
As for the film, writer-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 of how they got there or which location it is. We rarely have any idea what year it is, except when Stu's mug shot shows 1994. Plus, Father Stu is peppered with too many weepy songs, as well as a smattering of backward logic and (ugh) homophobia. If the real Stuart Long, who passed away in 2014, was an inspiration to many, this movie is the opposite.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Father Stu's violence. How did it make you feel? Was it exciting? Shocking? What did the movie show or not show to achieve this effect? Why is that important?
How is drinking depicted? Is it glamorized? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?
Do you consider Father Stu a role model? Why, or why not?
How does the movie's end-credits footage of the real-life Stu compare with the fictional portrayal of him? What might have been changed for the movie? Did the movie inspire you to learn more?
How well does the movie express faith-based values?
- In theaters: April 15, 2022
- On DVD or streaming: May 31, 2022
- Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Jacki Weaver, Mel Gibson
- Director: Rosalind Ross
- Studio: Sony Pictures Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Run time: 124 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout
- Last updated: February 17, 2023
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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