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 11+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 6 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

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.


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.


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


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.



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 byKandeReviews February 13, 2021

Heart-warming « Life » movie

What a different, yet excellent side of Eddie Murphy! Completely worth my time. Relatively clean, and certainly depicts real life lessons. A heart-warming story...
Teen, 13 years old Written bynerdybirdy March 17, 2019

Amazing... but VERY mature

This movie was incredible. I was close to tears on several occasions (and I never cry watching movies). I can't say much for positive role models, but the... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byThat one person... February 10, 2019

Stop Please Read...

Ok, at first, I had no interest in watching this movie, but when I did, I realized that it was very good. The plot was very engaging, but it may not be very in... 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate