“Father Stu” opens with a young Stuart Long (Tenz McCall) dancing to Elvis as his no-good alcoholic father Bill (Mel Gibson) looks on contemptuously. As Bill admits during an AA meeting later in the film, he shot every one of the boy’s heroes down hoping one day the boy would admire him.
That troubled relationship with his father is central to the story. We next meet grown-up Stuart (Mark Wahlberg) as an amateur boxer trying to make a go of it at an age when most fighters are considering hanging up their gloves. This is much to the disapproval of his fretful mother Kathleen (Jacki Weaver), who raised him on her own after Bill left. Stu’s record in the ring is good, but he’s forced to quit because the infections he suffers after a fight could lead to life-threatening complications.
Next up, Stu decides it’s time to head to Hollywood for a career in acting instead, working the meat counter at a grocery store until he gets noticed. Stardom doesn’t find him, but he reconnects with Bill and gets hit with the thunderbolt when he sees Carmen (Teresa Ruiz) shopping at his store.
He tracks her to a local Catholic church and woos her, but she won’t date him unless he’s Baptized. In true Stu style, that’s a small obstacle and he gets himself dunked. Stu only finds true faith, however, after he suffers a horrendous motorcycle accident and sees a vision of the Virgin Mary.
Once he is fully recovered, he pursues another new career in the priesthood, much to everyone’s astonishment. Nevertheless, he manages to convince Monsignor Kelly of the seminary (Malcolm MacDowell) to give him a shot. He proves himself worthy, but he is soon struck down by a rare progressive muscular disease.