Mr. Church

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Mr. Church Movie Poster Image
Clichéd drama has sad moments, drinking, stereotypes.
  • PG-13
  • 2016
  • 104 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Family is more than blood -- it's the people who care for and love you unconditionally. The importance of reading is also promoted, as is the idea that everyone has different gifts and talents they can nurture and grow.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mr. Church is almost unbelievably selfless, caring, comforting, and wise. From breakfast to dinner every day, he takes care of Charlie and her mother and treats them as family. Charlie is a smart and talented girl/young woman who loves Mr. Church, even though she understands many people don't understand why or how she has a personal cook.

Violence

More sadness and upsetting scenes than violence, but what's here could be emotionally wrenching. Two significant characters are ill and die, leaving the main character distraught. Two funerals. References to various deaths and a supporting character's vehicular manslaughter incident, which killed a child. A pregnant woman is accidentally struck and falls hard on the ground.

Sex

A couple of kisses and references to pregnancy out of wedlock and the mother's married lover.

Language

Very few at first -- a couple of uses of "damn," "hell," and "jerk" -- but in the second half, there are at least three times when someone says a bunch of expletives, including "s--t," "a--hole," "goddammit," and more.

Consumerism

Volkswagen.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mr. Church almost always has a cigarette in his mouth. Teens smoke cigarettes, too. A character gets extremely drunk on several occasions. Another character is known for his DUI vehicular manslaughter conviction, which left him unable to drive. A mother serves her teen daughter for a toast.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mr. Church is a biographical drama based on a real-life friendship between the titular personal cook and the mother and daughter for whom he works. Starring Eddie Murphy in his first serious role in years, the movie should appeal to teens who enjoy independent dramas. Despite solid performances, the movie has garnered criticism for falling into what Spike Lee famously called the "Magical Negro" cliche, which could feel racially insensitive to some viewers. Also, one of the subplots revolves around hidden alcoholism (a character gets extremely drunk on several occasions, and there are references to a DUI vehicular manslaughter conviction), and both teens and an adult character smoke. There are sad deaths, two funerals, two women who have babies "out of wedlock" (as it's labeled in the movie), and a good bit of strong language (including "s--t" and "goddammit") in the second half of the script.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byN G. December 23, 2016

A heart warming movie of love and family

I came across this movie by accident, where I saw that it had received some great reviews from others on Amazon (it is available free through Amazon Prime). I... Continue reading
Adult Written byJAS A. October 28, 2016

Mr. Church Review

What a wonderful and inspiring story. The movie brings the audience into power of reading, truly accepting good people beyond race, and pain of death. Great mov... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byJflores14 September 25, 2016

Sweet story about freindship and parenthood

Mr. Church was everything I expected it to be: touching, sweet, funny, and heart-warming. And it delivered. This is a great movie for families or date nights. N... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybiovox14 April 8, 2017

No stereotypes, fantastic movie

This was a GREAT movie, and even though it can be a little slow, its very good. It was refreshing to see Eddie Murphy playing a serious role, and he did a fanta... Continue reading

What's the story?

MR. CHURCH is a semi-biographical drama about a 10-year-old girl named Charlie (Natalie Coughlin), who wakes up one morning to discover that she and her single mother, Marie (Natascha McElhone), have a personal cook, Mr. Church (Eddie Murphy). Marie's recently deceased lover had arranged for Mr. Church to cook for Marie -- who has terminal breast cancer -- and Charlie for six months, but he ends up staying for many years. Teen Charlie (Britt Robertson) comes to consider Mr. Church like an uncle of sorts, and he's there for her during tragic and difficult circumstances again and again.

Is it any good?

Evaluated just on Murphy and Robertson's performances, this relationship drama would be worth seeing, but the problematic stereotypes and cliched storyline make it a disappointing waste of talent. Murphy's portrayal of Mr. Church is thoughtfully understated and quietly forceful, forcing audiences to look beyond the actor's comedic genius to his considerable dramatic abilities. Robertson and McElhone are well cast opposite him, with Robertson in particular proving she's a gifted young actress who's able to convey much nuance.

Unfortunately, even if you take into consideration screenwriter Susan McMartin's real-life friendship with the personal cook she grew up with (although apparently some of the circumstances were quite different), Mr. Church quickly becomes a pretty blatant example of what Spike Lee first called the "Magical Negro." Mr. Church is a wise, caring, talented African-American man (he cooks, plays piano, sews, and even cries "elegantly") whose only purpose seems to be to help a troubled white character better understand herself. What little we learn of his back story is so limited that even that only serves to further the growth of Charlie's character. It's a shame, because the actors are quite impressive. But the movie is not.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether there are racial stereotypes in Mr. Church. Why would it be of concern that the black character's primary role seems to be to help the white characters learn more about themselves? Can you think of other movies with a a similar scenario?

  • Discuss the idea that family isn't just who you're related to by blood, but also who cares for you on a regular basis. Why is that an important lesson?

  • What role do drinking and smoking play in the story? Are there realistic consequences? Why does that matter?

  • What do you think of comedic actors who transition into dramatic roles? Who's done it well? What do you think of Murphy's performance?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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