Father Stu Reviews Are Online, Check Out What Critics Are Saying About Mark Wahlberg's Religious Drama

Mark Wahlberg as Stuart Long in Father Stu.
(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

In Father Stu, star Mark Walhberg tackles the story of boxer-turned-priest Stuart Long, who went from destruction to redemption, inspiring many along the way. Based on true events, this faith-based film carries an R-rating, which is pretty atypical for movies of the genre. The cast members themselves pushed back against the sometimes-polarizing label, saying it’s a different kind of religious movie. Well, critics have screened the film, and the reviews are in to give us an idea of what to expect from Walhberg’s Father Stu

Rosalind Ross makes her directorial debut with the film, which also stars Mel Gibson as Stu’s father; Jacki Weaver as his mother Kathleen; and Teresa Ruiz as Carmen, the Sunday school teacher whom Stu is determined to win over. Mark Walhberg had to go through a “really difficult” transformation for the role, so let’s take a look at what the critics are saying about the final product. 

Carlos Aguilar of The Wrap says both Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson seem to be chasing on-screen rehabilitation for off-screen misdeeds, and although he calls the movie "above average" for its genre, he says the script includes some outdated lines and scenes that border on homophobia:

Ultimately, the results are an entertaining enough product, with some cheeky story beats, solid visuals, and recognizable faces, all combined with the goal of sending out a message beyond those already subscribed to the dogma. In that regard, Father Stu has a stronger shot at success than other based-on-a-true-story, faith-based fare to hit theaters in recent years.

Carla Hay of Culture Mix does not agree the film is above average, genre not withstanding. She writes that the corny dialogue and cringe-worthy scenarios make this based-on-a-true-story flick look like a phony. She says it's not worth the price of a movie ticket:

Boring and predictable, Father Stu is yet another film in Mark Wahlberg's long list of one-note movies where he plays a foul-mouthed jerk who's promoted as heroic. It's another 'toxic male who needs to be redeemed' story that does nothing new or clever.

Vince Mancini of Uproxx scores Father Stu a C-, calling it a two-hour, full-on hard sell for Catholicism. He says the movie portrays an utterly unconvincing adversarial worldview:

Father Stu is [an] intriguing mix, of illuminating religious philosophy and utterly baffling narrative choices. It’s vaguely inspiring, slightly tedious to sit through, and ultimately unknowable, like any good Catholic sermon.

Stephen Farber of The Hollywood Reporter says the movie succeeds in not being sanctimonious, but it's also not quite as compelling as they might have wanted. He says despite some R-rated language, Father Stu seems bland and perfunctory, and its script is rushed and unconvincing. While the actors do their job, this critic says viewers will not be converted:

Given the failings of the script, the performances are often surprisingly effective. Wahlberg captures Stu’s charm without overselling it. Ruiz is engaging, and although Australian actress Weaver isn’t always convincing as a Montana mom, she has a few forceful scenes. Gibson actually gives one of the strongest performances of his career. He doesn’t soften the character, and even when Bill begins to warm toward Stu, Gibson doesn’t overplay the sentiment.

Owen Gleiberman of Variety says the movie goes further into religious feeling than you expect, but wishes the drama were less sketchy. Mark Wahlberg gives a fine performance, according to Gleiberman, but the father-son relationship between him and Mel Gibson never really hits the mark: 

It’s a surprisingly sincere movie about religious feeling, but it is also, too often, a dramatically undernourished one. The characters who surround Stuart are thinly drawn and pop in and out of the story. Mel Gibson has what should be a showpiece role, and God knows he rages away with gnarled conviction, but the father-son dynamics exist mostly in the abstract; it never feels like a lived-in relationship.

The critics seem unsure about this movie, but if you want to check it out for yourself, Father Stu will make its theatrical premiere on Wednesday, April 13. Also be sure to check out our 2022 Movie Release Schedule to start planning your next movie night!

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Heidi Venable is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend, a mom of two and a hard-core '90s kid. She started freelancing for CinemaBlend in 2020 and officially came on board in 2021. Her job entails writing news stories and TV reactions from some of her favorite prime-time shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Bachelor. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Journalism and worked in the newspaper industry for almost two decades in multiple roles including Sports Editor, Page Designer and Online Editor. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.