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Critics and the general public are at odds over the new faith-based film “Father Stu,” released in theaters last week.
At least 75 film critics have collectively rated the Catholic film with a dismal 44% rating, according to popular review website Rotten Tomatoes. The audience, on the other hand, praised the movie as a resounding success, with more than 500 reviews averaging a high 95% rating.
The film takes viewers through the life of troubled amateur boxer-turned-Catholic priest Father Stuart Long, who suffered from a rare degenerative and incurable muscular disorder called inclusion body myositis. Critics, clearly, were not convinced of the film adaptation.
“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,” complained Common Sense Media’s Jeffrey M. Anderson.
Movie Reelist’s Monti Lee Stormer mocked, “The message seems to be ‘In the End, Stu became a priest, and everybody clapped.'”
“Its clumsy, inert storytelling seems less interested in converting nonbelievers than in convincing us of Wahlberg’s piety,” Washington Post critic Michael O’Sullivan said.
James Verniere of the Boston Herald said actors Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson had their performances “blocked” by the “mediocre screenplay by first-time director Rosalind Ross,” who is Gibson’s girlfriend, adding that the film is “a total bore.”
The general public, though, appreciated that the film was “a pleasant change” from “all the other movies available” with both “excellent acting” and a “profound message.”
“Great message and amazing performance by actors and actresses it teaches us how to be tolerant and persistent at the same time,” one audience review said.
“Humanized priest & faith life relatable highly recommended!” a reviewer named Alison wrote. “Will watch again!”
“Absolutely loved this movie,” a user named Brian D. commented. “Keep Bringing us these kind of movies that uplift us and inspire us to be better souls on this earth. Thank you.”
“Thoroughly enjoyable movie. Mark Wahlberg was excellent as usual. Entire cast was great,” another review said. “I would recommend it to anyone who would enjoy a real life story of someone succeeding after much adversity.”
Despite critics’ reaction, “Father Stu” meant a lot to Catholic actors Wahlberg and Gibson; the former privately financed the project and the film was written and directed by Gibson’s girlfriend, Rosalind Ross.
Moreover, the film seems to be signal of what’s to come from Wahlberg.
“I feel like this is starting a new chapter for me in that, now, doing things like this — real substance — can help people,” the 50-year-old actor told Entertainment Tonight. “I definitely want to focus on making more. I wouldn’t say necessarily just faith-based content but things that will help people. So, hopefully this movie will open a door for not only myself but for lots of other people in Hollywood to make more meaningful content.”
Wahlberg added that it will be “sooner rather than later, probably,” that he’ll be leaving Hollywood.
Gibson told Fox News that he has long understood that there is a “real thirst” for faith-based content, referring to smash hit “The Passion of the Christ,” which was co-written and directed by the actor.
“You know, I had a pretty big experience with ‘The Passion,’” he said. “That was an interesting journey to understand that there’s a real thirst for this kind of content out there. People want it, and they respond well to it. So it’s a privilege to be a part of that delivery.”
“I think ‘Father Stu’ offers that,” Gibson continued. “It’s a little different. I wouldn’t really call it a faith-based film, but I think it hits all those cravings that the community wants. But at the same time, it’s not preaching to the choir. It’s got F-bombs, so you do have to weather those things to get to the jewel.”