"Mr. Church" tells the story of a unique friendship that develops when a little girl and her dying mother retain the services of a talented cook - Henry Joseph Church. What begins as a six month arrangement instead spans fifteen years, and creates a family bond that lasts forever.
Eddie Murphy is a living legend. He's one of the best stand up comedians to ever grace the stage, an Oscar nominated actor, and he's even made a few albums over the years, including a duet with the late, great Michael Jackson. Murphy is mostly known for his comedy films, the 'Beverly Hills Cop' franchise, and two of the funniest films from the 1980s, 'Coming To America' and 'Trading Places'. Unfortunately over the recent years, the name Eddie Murphy has also beenmet with snickering and the bad kind of laughter, as Murphy has made a long string of not-so-funny comedy films, much like Adam Sandler continues to do.
Then, a few years ago, Murphy received the Golden Globe Award and Oscar Nomination for his role in 'Dreamgirls', which was rightfully deserved, and looked to basically be a big comeback for Murphy. That was ten years ago and since then, Murphy has kept a relatively low profile, only churning out four films that weren't that good, despite a couple of 'Shrek' projects. Murphy has hinted at returning to stand up, but hasn't yet, and hasn't even made a real appearance on his first gig ever - 'Saturday Night Live'. I was shocked to see him in this type of film, which is another dramatic role, which has conjured up some awards talk for this upcoming Oscar season.
The film in question is titled 'Mr. Church', which is the name of the character that Murphy plays here. Originally the role was for Samuel L. Jackson, but due to schedule conflicts, it went to Murphy. After the first director opted out as well, the film went to Bruce Beresford, who you might remember from more than twenty years ago with films like 'Double Jeopardy' and his finest achievement 'Driving Miss Daisy', which has some small similarities to 'Mr. Church', being that a black man helps out a white family by cooking, driving, and various other household chores. The film itself is quite lovely though, yet it is entirely sappy and tugs the hear strings every chance it gets.
The film centers on a girl named Charlie Brooks, who lives with her dying mother Marie (Natascha McElhone). One day, Mr. Church shows up in their kitchen, cooking up something that belongs in the finest restaurants and on the cover of magazines. Turns out, Marie's late boyfriend made a deal with Mr. Church to cook for Marie and her kid after he died. The first part of the film shows a young Charlie warming up to Mr. Church after cooking and reading books together. The film cuts to Charlie's high school years, now played by Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland), who is going through all of the teenage angst. There are a few more segments of the film, where Charlie becomes a mother herself, going to college, and relationships.
Meanwhile, Mr. Church is always there to help out when needed, but Mr. Church is very secretive and doesn't want his separate life to be known by anyone, even if he comes home drunk and yelling. Susan McMartin's screenplay doesn't really flow easily through each section of the film, and is to on the nose with certain melodramatic moments as if there were a subtitle at the bottom of the screen blinking 'Cry Here'. Don't get me wrong, the film itself is very sweet and has a big heart, but the execution in the screenplay wasn't all there to be that compelling, even if it draws on our cheap emotions throughout.
Britt Robertson and Natascha McElhone turn in great performances here, but it's Eddie Murphy who shines here, delivering a very layered yet simple and genuine character whom we can relate to. Murphy is a master of his craft and it truly shows in 'Mr. Church'. Again, the film is a sappy one, but Murphy's performance is one rare thing to see.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Mr. Church' comes with a 25GB Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate that is Region A Locked. There is an insert for the digital download code here, which all are housed in an eco-friendly, hard, blue, plastic case with a cardboard sleeve.
'Mr. Church' comes with a decent 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The film looks good on a whole with some sharp and vivid detail that give way to great closeups and wide shots throughout. Closeups reveal individual hairs on the actor's heads, wrinkles, makeup blemishes, freckles, and more. The intimate stitching in the prom dress as well as the other wardrobe of the decade shows up nicely. Wide shots never go soft either with great detail in every worn out book and imperfection in all of the gourmet food.
Colors look great too with very warm colors in the interior shots of the house. Exterior shots offer some great primary colors that pop off screen too. All colors are well balanced and saturated. There were some problems with video noise throughout the film where the noise jumps high, than disappears all together, which was a minor issues. Other than that, the video looks great.
This release comes with a good DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and does a good job with a well-balanced soundscape. Don't expect loud explosions or gunshots with this movie. The big shining star of the audio mix is the music, which features a great selection of jazz material as Mr. Church plays jazz as he's cooking. The sound is full and robust here and is a delight to listen to. Other than that, the soundscape is rather front heavy.
The sound effects and ambient noises of the city life sound good and are never overly done. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills. The low ends sound great during the music moments of the film, but otherwise are non-existent.
Britt Robertson (HD, 4 Mins.) - Interviews with cast and crew that focuses on the work of Britt Robertson during the film, examining her character and acting with Eddie Murphy. There is some on-set footage here as well.
Eddie Murphy Doing a Drama (HD, 4 Mins.) - Again, interviews with cast and crew on working with Eddie Murphy, casting Eddie Murphy, along with some on-set footage.
Food on Film (HD, 2 Mins.) - Shows some of the food being prepared for the shots, as well as some short interviews on how you can't eat prop food.
Based on a True Friendship (HD, 4 Mins.) - Screenwriter Susan McMartin is discussed here, as this film was based on her life growing up.
'Mr. Church' is a good film. It is also a very sappy and 'tug at your heartstrings' film. The flow of the film is off, but the performances by everyone are solid. Eddie Murphy turns in an excellent performance, which I'm sure will get some award's attention in the coming months. The video and audio presentations are both good as well. The extras a very short and don't offer a ton of useful information. I enjoyed 'Mr. Church', but can't imagine re-watching this over and over. Still, this is worth a look for Murphy's performance.