It’s overly long biopic, with an uneven tone.
Still, “Father Stu” is worth seeing, because Stuart Long – the real-life person who is the titular character – is worth getting to know.
Stuart (Mark Wahlberg) is a hard-drinking amateur boxer with quite a swagger. His mother (Jackie Weaver, “Animal Kingdom”) worries about her son.
After an injury, Stu decides to leave his boxing career behind and head to Los Angeles to become an actor. He goes on some interviews, but … let’s just say not all the filmmakers he meets have his best interest in mind (shades of Wahlberg’s character in”Boogie Nights!”)
He does land a job – at a grocery store, where he instantly is smitten with Carmen (Teresa Ruiz) as soon as he sees her.
He decides to pursue the devout woman, and tells her he plans to become a Catholic.
Then, right after a motorcycle accident, he experiences a visitation from the Virgin Mary, which changes the trajectory of his life: He truly feels a calling, and becomes determined to become a priest.
Mel Gibson plays Stu’s crude, angry father who presents yet another challenge to Stu.
The film is heavy on his early life. It becomes much more compelling when the audience can see the gritty, no-nonsense way Stu delivers the Gospel message – especially in a scene in which he talks with a group of incarcerated men.
With its often-profane dialogue and some scenes of violence, the film justifiably earns its “R” rating. That edge lends authenticity to the characters.
Those of you familiar with the real Father Stu already may know this is not always a happy film. But it’s always inspirational.
2 1/2 stars
Running time: Two hours and four minutes.
Rated: R for foul language, violence and sexual situations.
At Cinemark, Davenport; Regal, Moline; and Palms 10, Muscatine.
Watch the trailer here.