Father Stu Reborn: Back in the Theaters, With Family-Friendly Language

The sanitized version of the film will open in theaters Dec. 9, this time titled Father Stu: Reborn.

Mark Wahlberg portrays Stuart Long in Columbia Pictures’ ‘Father Stu.’
Mark Wahlberg portrays Stuart Long in Columbia Pictures’ ‘Father Stu.’ (photo: Karen Ballard / © 2022 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

When Sony Pictures’ Father Stu was released in April 2022, the film met with both acclaim and criticism. Sony Pictures described Father Stu as “an unflinchingly honest, funny and uplifting drama about a lost soul who finds his purpose in a most unexpected place.” The true story of a boxer-turned-priest who inspired countless people as he journeyed toward greater faith, the films shows two sides of Stuart Long.

  • At the end Stuart, played by Mark Wahlberg, is a Catholic priest whose love for God and direct, clear preaching touches the hearts of even hardened criminals in the penitentiary.
  • But before he reaches that point, he’s more comfortable in the gutter: In the first half of the movie, he’s a foul-mouthed amateur boxer working as a bouncer in a bar, then a stock clerk in a supermarket.

It’s that early part of Stu’s life that elicits complaints from devout people who headed to the theater, expecting to enjoy a wholesome story about a Catholic priest. The film contains unusually strong language for a faith-based film, including frequent use of the “F” word (nearly 40 times). It seems that Wahlberg used strong language as a way of emphasizing the contrast between Stu’s pre- and post-conversion lifestyles, and many moviegoers — including some Catholic bishops — understood that and were able to overlook the often-used expletives. For some, though, it was a bridge too far, and they felt that they’d been gobsmacked with extreme vulgarity.

In any case, whether you were bothered by it or not, you couldn’t take your kids to watch the movie. The “R” rating meant that no one under the age of 18 could be admitted. So responding to the criticism from viewers, Sony Pictures gave it a second chance — cleaning it up and removing the offensive language. The sanitized version of the film will open in theaters Dec. 9, this time titled Father Stu: Reborn.

It’s not entirely redeemed — the new film, while missing the frequent “F”-bombs, still earned a PG-13 rating for “language, an accident scene, sexual references, some violence and smoking.” Like the original Father Stu, this PG-13 version will run 2 hours and 4 minutes.

Sony Pictures took a chance on this, with the expectation that perhaps more people will come to the theater now, during the Advent season, to see an inspiring conversion story. Many will be happy to see the changes — happy because more viewers will be able to view the important story, without the distraction of all the profanity.

Father Stu: Reborn is a worthwhile story, one that deserves to be seen and heard. It’s a difficult story with a lot of rough edges, but it’s a story that can be told in a civil way. Sony believes it will attract an audience with its message of redemption and grace.