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Cinematic adaptation of 'The Shack' is for the faithful, not the masses

Jesus (Aviv Alush, far left), Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington, center left), Papa (Octavia Spencer, center right) and Sarayu (Sumire Matsubara, far right) in THE SHACK.

The Shack
2.5 out of 5 Stars
Director:
Stuart Hazeldine
Writers: John Fusco, Andrew Lanham, Destin Daniel Cretton, William Paul Young, Wayne Jacobsen, Brad Cummings
Starring: Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, Tim McGraw
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Rated: PG-13 for thematic material including some violence
Recommended to: Fans of the novel, those looking for an untraditional faith-based film

Synopsis: Following the murder of his daughter, a grieving man returns to the scene of the crime to talk to God.

Review: “The Shack” is a Christian film that is likely to only appeal to those who have read the book or are within the faith and are fairly open minded when it comes to the representation of the Trinity. The story follows Mack (Sam Worthington), a man who has lost connection with the world around him after the abduction and murder of his young child. Mack had demons before the kidnapping from childhood experiences (a part of the film that feels underwritten and vague) that have kept him at odds with God, now he’s even more distant. Disconnected from his family, Mack receives a mysterious invitation to meet with God in the shack where his daughter was killed.

I personally don’t see anything heretical in “The Shack,” a film that suggests that God and religion are shaped for an individual’s needs, rather than one-size-fits-all ideology. I do see a sloppy screenplay, particularly when it comes to the opening act, that might have derailed the film entirely if it weren’t for the presence of Octavia Spencer. As Papa, Spencer delivers a warm performance befitting of the character. Without her as the emotional center, the film would be left to rely entirely on its cinematography and set design. Beyond Spencer the performances range from just adequate to underwhelming.

I do like some of the ideas at play here, but the CSI aspects of the script offer little to no thrills and the delivery of the religious themes that follow feel too heavy handed to speak to the masses. If you’re a believer, you’ll probably find something in the film to enjoy. If you aren’t of the faith, or have a rigid idea of the nature of God, you’ll likely be disappointed or otherwise unhappy with the film.


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