HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Mr. Church
HTS Overall Score:71
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Eddie Murphy in a serious role. In fact it’s been a while since I’ve seen Eddie Murphy in ANYTHING at all. Not because he hasn’t been acting over the last decade or so, but because everything that he’s done recently has been a major flop of epic proportions with him taking lines out of the Adam Sandler playbook of post career high choices. “Mr. Church” brings me back to watching “Dreamgirls”, where Murphy had been suffering on the downhill slope of his career. He had just had public problems with his relationship with a certain transvestite, and his last good movie before that being his work as Donkey in “Shrek 2” (actually my favorite of the series), and not much good before that since “Bowfinger”. It happens with all actors, but sooner or later you peak and the film career that you once had begins a steady downward spiral. “Dreamgirls” was comeback for Murphy, as it gave him the chance to flex his actual ACTING muscles and he did so incredibly well. He even got nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor in 2006, but was snubbed when Alan Arkin took home the prize for “Little Miss Sunshine” (something that was a cinematic crime, as Murphy’s role in “Dreamgirls” easily outclassed Arkin’s film). My only assumption is that Murphy’s agent assured him that “Mr. Church” would be another sure fire hit to get back into the Academy awards or another Oscar nomination for the actor. Sadly that isn’t the case, as “Mr. Church” ends up being an overly sugary film that has its heart in the right place, but can’t seem to gain the traction needed to really be a truly emotional and invigorating drama.
Young mother Marie Brooks (Natascha McElhone, best known for playing opposite of Jim Carrey in “The Truman Show”) sets up the film by telling us that she has been jilted by her ex-lover (a married man who happens to be incredibly wealthy). She has had a young daughter fathered by this man but has also been diagnosed with cancer. In his will he bequeathed Marie with enough funds to live out her life until the cancer took over and also made sure she was looked after. This looking after comes in the form of Mr. Church (Eddie Murphy), an elegant man who has not only agreed to look over Marie and her daughter Charlotte (Charlie for short, played by Natalie Coughlin as a child and Britt Robertson as an adult), but also has been given a handsome salary by the late ex-lover of Marie to ensure her care. Charlie is not exactly enthused with the intruder into her home, but soon the charming Mr. Church wins over the young girl with a mixture of exquisite cooking and a kindness that surpasses anything she has ever known.
It’s already a foregone conclusion that Marie’s condition is not going to end happily. However, 6 months turns into 6 years as she fights and fights to beat that cancer away with every fiber of her being. Unfortunately nature and the odds finally win, leaving Charlie and Mr. Church alone. While Mr. Church was only hired to take care of Marie and Charlie until the cancer took her life, Mr. Church continues his care and guidance for Charlie until one day Charlie comes home from college with a surprise of her own. Another case of “like mother, like daughter” where an unexpected pregnancy messes up an otherwise predictable life. What unfolds is a tale of love and caring between two unlikely friends that spans not just a few years, but a few decades of their lives, and defines them so deeply that without one, the other ceases to be relevant.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=83145[/img]“Mr. Church” had a lot of good things going for it. Eddie Murphy is a known actor who has some serious acting chops when he wants to (although this was tentative as he’s not had a lot of luck lately with his film projects) and Director Bruce Beresford has put out some incredible films over the years. “Driving Miss Daisy”, “Breaker Morant”, “Double Jeopardy” (ok, that one may not be GREAT, but it certainly was fun), “Crimes of the Heart” etc, and Britt Robertson has shown some serious talent over the years. In fact there are several things about the script itself that really work. Mr. Church himself is a loveable character and the film has all the earmarks of one of those tearjerkers that is a shoe in for the academy awards. Unfortunately there is a flip side to this coin. The sugary script by Susan McMartin is WAAAAAAAAAAY too saccharine sweet. So much so that it comes across as overly clichéd and too well trodden to be taken emotionally seriously. In fact everything just SCREAMS Oscar bait. A trait that makes it less impactful and more clinical than anything. Everything is there in the proper order. The story about the disenfranchised young woman who grows up without a parent. The loveable man who comes in and sacrifices everything to keep them alive. The little moments where you have to hold the tears back as their savior comes to his life’s end. But those little tropes are nothing without any real emotional attachment. This is where I had the most conflict with “Mr. Church”. The building blocks were all there, but the actual execution of the film left me feeling cold and distant from the emotional synergy that was supposed to happen on screen.
Don’t get me wrong. “Mr. Church” is not some awful film. In fact Eddie Murphy and Britt Robertson do a fine job with their characters. Eddie himself does exceptionally well and I can understand WHY he was so critically acclaimed for his role in “Dreamgirls”. The man REALLY knows how to act if directed properly. It’s just that “Mr. Church” can’t rise above the overly sugary script and typical directing that turn the film into a lifetime channel movie of the week instead of the heavily emotional and Oscar bait film that it was obviously intended to be.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=83153[/img]The 1.85:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray disc looks quite pleasing to the eye on home video, with a strong video encode that plays to the film’s strengths with strong detail and pleasant coloring. The film keeps a very sun kissed look leans heavily towards golds and light pastels when dealing with the 1970’s home of Marie or the 80’s ear for Mr. Church’s house, but is given a much more modern and vibrant look when showing scenes of Charlie in college and the rest of New York City. Fine detail is excellent, with the grays and wrinkles in Eddie Murphy’s face showing of wonderfully, while intimate clothing details such as his sweater and robe show up with razor sharp clarity. The film is graded ever so slightly to look a bit glossy, digital look that is typical of the Arri Alexa cameras, but I also noticed some digital noise that came and went throughout the film as well. Blacks are relatively strong and show plenty of shadow detail, although I noticed a flicker of banding here and there.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=83161[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track on board the disc is a very talky track, and follows the general rules of your average drama. Dialog and vocal replication are the largest emphasis in the mix and they are given a great presentation in the center channel. There’s some mild musical queues to liven up the front sound stage, such as Mr. Church tinkling away at the ivories, as well as the score bringing in some use for the surround channels. LFE is mild, but more than satisfactory, and the overall clarity of the track is never in question. There’s not a whole lot of activity to make this a wild and exciting experience, but everything asked of it is done with a sense of purpose and ease.
• Britt Robertson
• Eddie Murphy Doing a Drama
• Food on Film
• Based on a True Friendship
“Mr. Church” is a sweet, if not slightly misguided, film that really had a chance to become something better than it should have been. Eddie Murphy many not have gotten the career boost that he probably wanted from the film, but I have to give him props in his execution of the titular character in the movie. He does a great job and with some better direction could have really gone somewhere with it. I enjoyed the movie more than I expected to, but sadly the script and direction kept it from being greater than it is. The audio and video are certainly more than satisfactory for home video (although the extras are a bit thin), and the movie makes for a solid enough rental if you’re in the mood for a good tear jerker.
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Natascha McElhone, Britt Robertson
Directed by: Bruce Beresford
Written by: Susan McMartin
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 104 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 25th, 2016
Buy Mr. Church On Blu-ray at Amazon
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