Film Review – Mr. Church (2016)

Title – Mr. Church (2016)

Director – Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy)

Cast – Britt Robertson, Eddie Murphy, Xavier Samuel, Lucy Fry, Natascha McElhone, Mckenna Grace

Plot – When her father passes away, Charlie (Robertson) begins a friendship with new family chef Mr. Church (Murphy) that will last a lifetime.

“There are those who say nothing at all. Because they don’t have to”

Review by Eddie on 29/03/2018

From a childhood growing up with a new Eddie Murphy movie almost every year, to an adulthood where it now seems like a rarity to hear about the comedy kingpin, let alone see him in a movie, Mr. Church is the 80’s and 90’s staple newest film and first to release since 2012, allowing us the opportunity to once more see Murphy on our screens.

Those wishing to see old-school Murphy will be left sorely disappointed however as Mr. Church is Murphy at his most refined and low-key, perhaps the most he ever has been, as the wisecracking master dials it right down to portray real-life figure Henry Church in Bruce Beresford’s dramatization of screenwriter Susan McMartin’s upbringing with her kindly and good natured chef/father figure Mr. Church.

Well adverse to feel good tales from his direction of films such as Driving Miss Daisy, Tender Mercies and Evelyn, Australian director Beresford dials up the kitsch to 11 in this feel good drama and it’s not hard to see why Mr. Church was almost unanimously panned by critics upon its curiously low-key release a few years back, but despite the film feeling rather manipulative and often too convenient in its overcoming’s of heavy life events, there’s a gentle feel good quality to this tale that is led by Murphy in what’s arguably his most assured acting turn outside of his comedy hijinks.

Walking that fine line between fairy-tale like guardian figure whose all too happy to be cooking and housekeeping for some white picket fence American’s and a layered figure whose mysterious past and life experiences has led him to become the man as we see him, Murphy is Mr. Church’s MVP and it’s a performance that showcases just what might lay in store for his acting future as he reaches an age where characters like Axel Foley and Sherman Klump are no longer possibilities.

It’s a shame Beresford’s rather uninspired direction and Mr. Church’s other acting ensemble don’t come to the party as Britt Robertson, who doubles up as our key figure Charlie and the films narrator, fails to make Charlie completely work as a character, while the intriguing but never fully resolved back story surrounding Henry Church never unlocks the way we hope it does making our emotional investment in the characters plight lesser than it could’ve easily been.

While nice not to be spoon-fed everything we expect, Mr. Church’s inability to maximise the power of its story frustrates more than it should.

Final Say –

Mr. Church is the type of film that’ll make you feel good, even though you know you’ve been manipulated into feeling so and while it’s a slight piece of cinematic fluff, it’s particularly refreshing to see a side of Murphy we’ve seen very little of in a career built around outlandish turns and his performance here makes Mr. Church a passable middle of the road experience.

2 ½ boxes of matches out of 5

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