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How Father Stu’s Cast Feels The Mark Wahlberg Film Sets Itself Apart From Standard Faith-Based Fare

The term “faith-based film” is one that presents a certain image to moviegoers on either side of the subject. It’s a genre that’s come a long way, turning into a box office draw of its own and creating companies that specialize in making such projects. People think they know what they’re getting when a movie is sold as such a prospect, but one of 2022’s upcoming movies, the Mark Wahlberg-led biopic Father Stu, is about to set itself apart from the standard faith-based fare one would come to expect.

It only took watching an ad for Father Stu on YouTube to quickly inform me that Mark Wahlberg’s portrayal of Father Stu looked very R-rated, but absolutely hysterical. That was without the more emotional pieces of the film being revealed, as well as the 30 pounds that Wahlberg had to put on for Father Stu in order to portray the story’s latter phases. Having seen just how atypical Father Stu was when it came to telling its story of faith and transformation, I was curious how the stars themselves would sell this movie to skeptics who might not consider faith-based movies their cup of tea. 

Asking that very question on behalf of CinemaBlend, I received a variety of responses. Starting with the answer from cast member Jacki Weaver, who plays Stuart’s mother Kathleen, I found that some of my reservations were shared by her when initially approaching the project. In her words:

I too was pleasantly surprised, because I have nothing against faith-based films, but I usually find them too sentimental, too proselytizing, too mawkish sometimes. This film is spiritually uplifting, but it is none of those things. It is genuinely amusing, funny, dig in the ribs, doesn’t take itself too seriously, doesn’t proselytize. And yet, I think it’s an uplifting, hopeful film. A beautiful film. And people who like faith-based films, I think that they’ll like it too. They might find some of it a little shocking, because there are some rough characters in it. But ultimately, it’s about decency, goodness, and how in life there’s always hope

Circling back to the term “faith-based film,” everything from Cecil B. DeMille’s legendary interpretations of The Ten Commandments to more recent SNL-mocked entries like the God’s Not Dead movies comes to mind. Epics depicting scripture and stories of fighting a system that is supposedly against the concept of faith make for an interesting, but limited continuum to tell such stories on.

If there’s any type of movie audiences should compare Father Stu to, it’s not a faith-based film. Actually, you’d be better off drawing parallels to some of your favorite underdog sports movies. When we’re introduced to Stuart Long, his boxing career has ended. Due to a continued history of injury, fighting again would practically kill him. It’s because of this twist of fate that he gets a job at a grocery store, which introduces him to the woman who helps change his life, Carmen (Teresa Ruiz).

What results is an atypical story of faith, and one of the most unique love stories to be told at the same time. Speaking with Teresa Ruiz on behalf of Father Stu, her pitch to moviegoers that might feel outside of this project’s wheel recapped the very same elements that make movies like Remember the Titans and Miracle such crowd pleasing hits. Ruiz said the following:

I think it’s a film about human transformation, and human redemption. It’s a film that tells us that it doesn’t matter where we are in our lives, we can all change. We can move forward, and not only can we be better, but we can have a better life and a better experience. We can have joy and love and community. I think that’s the underlying theme of the film.

And then, of course, we come to Mark Wahlberg’s feelings on how Father Stu will blow the audience’s expectations away. Helping shepherd this story to the big screen, Wahlberg learned about Stuart Long’s journey through faith from parishioners in his own church that wanted to see it become a cinematic reality. Originally working on this flick with another writer, this was another project that Wahlberg was slated to work on with his previous collaborator David O. Russell. 

Much like the Uncharted adaptation that Wahlberg continually teased for over a decade, Father Stu eventually required a behind-the-scenes shake up to get off the ground. Approaching Rosalind Ross to write the film at first, he eventually offered her the chance to direct Father Stu. The results pleased Mark Wahlberg, and as he recalled in our interview, those trailers are definitely doing the job they were intended to do:

I think the great thing about it is people are seeing the trailer, they’re seeing TV spots, so they’re getting that it’s got more edge. They can tell that it’s raw … I mean, it’s a rated-R film. It’s got language, it’s got a lot of very raw elements to it. But it’s also got a lot of humor, it’s got a lot of heart. I’ve seen a lot faith-based movies that really preach to the choir, and this is a movie for everybody. This is really encouraging people to not give up on themselves, to see the good in others, and to have hope. And hopefully reignite their faith, whatever that is. This is a movie for everybody, but I was committed to making the movie because I thought it’d be wildly entertaining, and certainly very uplifting and inspirational.

Yes, Father Stu is a movie about a man’s quest to fulfill his religious calling. However, that shouldn’t scare anyone away from giving the movie a chance, as it’s an underdog story that embraces the rough and human edges of the man it’s centered around. While there’s plenty of scenes where Mark Wahlberg is dressed as a priest, his sermons and his personal life draw a portrait of a person who was so much more than their faith.

Father Stu opens next week on April 13th, only in theaters. Just in time for the observation of the Easter holiday, Wahlberg fans should have no problem joining the line to see him and his co-stars give this film their all. To see what other upcoming Mark Wahlberg movies are on the way, head to our complete listing of what’s in the pipeline.

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.