Movie Review: Father Stu

Father Stu. To me, that would be Stu Lantz, the former Clairemont resident, who played in the NBA after being drafted by the San Diego Rockets in 1968 (Anybody old enough to remember them? Pat Riley was a rookie on that team, too). Lantz went on to be the Lakers broadcaster with Chick Hearn, and has been with the team for over 35 years. When I played basketball at Mira Mesa High, Lantz would come to our campus once a week to talk to athletes about a variety of things, helping to steer us to the right path in life.

It was wonderful spending that time once a week, talking to him about playing with Pete Maravich on the New Orleans Jazz (anybody old enough to remember when they weren’t in Utah, but an actual city that has jazz?); or talking to him about playing against his son (who was a great player at Madison High), and him even asking me if he could have a few of the basketball cards I had of him. 

But this movie isn’t about that Stu. It’s about Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg), not a basketball player, but a boxer (well, there is one scene of him playing basketball). He got injuries in the ring so serious that doctors told him to give up boxing. So he decided to go to Hollywood to try to make it in movies. After a few rejections, you think he might go down the Dirk Diggler path (he does dress like he’s still in Boogie Nights, which is odd, considering this was the ‘90s, not the ‘70s). Yet he ends up getting jobs in a number of commercials. 

Stu gets arrested for bar fights and DUIs, and it’s hard to root for him when he starts going to church. No, he hasn’t found God. He’s found Carmen (Teresa Ruiz), a beautiful, devout Catholic, who frequents the grocery store where he works part time (reminding me of Mickey Rourke in the terrific The Wrestler). She doesn’t want anything to do with him, but his persistence (i.e. stalking) pays off. This agnostic eventually gets baptized, which doesn’t thrill his mom (the always great Jackie Weaver). 

After a motorcycle crash puts him in a coma, he wakes up and decides to devote his life to God. He goes to a seminary to become a priest. The head honcho there is played well by Malcolm McDowell, but a friendship/mentorship between his character and Stu should have been better developed.

There are a few things that are hard to figure out about this movie. It starts with a kid dancing and rocking out to “Too Much Monkey Business” by Chuck Berry. The father goes off on the kid and Elvis Presley, and how the King died on a toilet. Well, Elvis did a version of that song, but that’s not the version they were playing. Perhaps they couldn’t get the rights to an Elvis song, but…that means the opening scene doesn’t work. And on the subject of music, playing “Rhinestone Cowboy” is so cliche at this point. And it was weird to hear Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” especially when Jackie Weaver was totally giving off a Dolly vibe. The film does deserve credit for playing a John Prine song in a bar, but you can barely hear it.

Oh, and that dad making fun of Elvis? He is played by Mel Gibson. Watching him drunk and suicidal in a trailer made me think of Lethal Weapon. Listening to a line he says about his son wanting to become a priest is like “Hitler joining the JDL [Jewish Defense League].” 

Uh, did nobody think that’s an odd line for an infamous anti-Semite like Gibson to utter? And why was he even cast in this movie, after all the horrible things he’s done? The woman that cast him would be the one he had his 9th kid with – the writer/director of this film, Rosalind Ross (she’s 34 years younger, if you’re keeping score at home).  

I’m guessing Gibson playing Wahlberg’s father in Daddy’s Home 2, is what helped these two get that A-lister for this. But even a great cast can’t save Ross. She gave us an uneven script with an overstuffed plot that tries to be a comedy, dysfunctional family drama, inspirational picture, rare disease, romance, and faith based film (but with an R rating, it might keep the religious families away). 

This is cliche ridden, poorly paced, poorly directed, and even the editing is perplexing. Often, we see shots lingering on a scene that isn’t necessary. And when you have a movie over 2 hours, probably best not to do that (especially when there are other scenes that could have used it).

It’s all a shame, because Stuart Long had a life that was worthy of a better biopic. 

1 star out of 5.

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