Credit: Courtesy Sony Pictures

The feature debut from director Rosalind Ross, Father Stu tells the true-life story of former amateur boxer Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg). When an injury brings his boxing career to an end, the hard-drinking and big-talking Stu heads out west to LA with hopes of making it big in showbiz and possibly even reconnecting with his estranged father (Mel Gibson). Falling short of seeing his name in lights, he instead falls for Carmen (Teresa Ruiz). Attempting to woo her, the agnostic Stu joins the local Catholic congregation Carmen avidly attends, but when a motorcycle accident and degenerative illness upends his life, Stu wonders if he’s been called to a higher purpose, joining the priesthood.

I’m not entirely sure that we need a movie starring Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson about problematic men finding a redemption arc, but if we do, this is certainly that movie. Father Stu is competently made and Wahlberg puts in another turn as an entertaining loser with a heart of gold. Narratively though, the inspirational story loses inspiration as the film suffers from front-loading, and much of our time is spent in the buildup to Stu’s priesthood. Without much time to focus on the positive effects he had in his local community, the final message of the film focuses less on personal growth and the impact we can have in the lives of others, than it is does on a hardheaded but lovable jackass who pivots from scheme to scheme and won’t take no for an answer. R, 124 min.

Wide release in theaters