From 4.22 review by THR‘s Frank Scheck: Mr. Church “is a touching coming-of-age tale and an even more touching account of an unlikely friendship marked by love and respect. Director Bruce Beresford, working with material that inevitably recalls his Oscar-winning Driving Miss Daisy, never lets the overt sentimentality become too schmaltzy, even if he’s a bit hampered by the sometimes melodramatic plotting and schematic characterizations.
“The film is emotionally manipulative, to be sure, but it’s ultimately hard to resist, especially given the quality of the lead performances.
“Eddie Murphy is a revelation. He doesn’t seem quite right for the role at first, his blazing charisma ostensibly at odds with his character’s unassuming, dignified demeanor. But he tamps it down just enough to be fully plausible, and he adds quiet grace notes, both comic and dramatic, that make his Mr. Church just as captivating for us as he is for the people around him. And as the character ages a couple of decades, his performance becomes all the more effective, subtly revealing the vulnerability underneath the smooth facade.
“It’s a shame that it’s taken Murphy so long to expose this side of his prodigious talent, but better late than never.”
From Variety‘s Nich Schager: “As most baldly evidenced by his refusal to tell a joke at last year’s Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary celebration, Eddie Murphy has largely set aside any on-screen comedic inclinations. Thus, it’s no surprise that in Mr. Church, his first cinematic project in four years, he delivers not a single mirthful one-liner as the title character, a compassionate cook who becomes the surrogate paterfamilias to a girl and her terminally ill mother.
“’Inspired by a true friendship’ but coming across as merely stale dramatic gruel, it affords its headliner minimal opportunity to flash his once-brilliant charisma, though its cozy sentimentality may help the film stir up decent theatrical attention when it debuts later this year.”