The Shack

Mack takes his 3 kids camping and only comes home with 2. While he was jumping into the lake to save his son from an overturned canoe, his youngest daughter disappears, presumably kidnapped and killed. The guilt and grief eat at him until a mysterious letter invites him back to the shack where her bloodstains and sundress were found. He goes out there alone, armed with a gun, and finds exactly what was promised but not what he expected. Are you ready to believe?

The Shack is a Christian movie. Sam Worthington plays Mack, the dad in mourning gallery-2who’d survived his own harrowing childhood and has his faith diluted along the way. Octavia Spencer plays ‘Papa’, the fond nickname Mack’s daughter had for God. Oooh, God is a black woman, how wonderfully liberal while still being completely conservative.

God’s son is there too (Avraham Aviv Alush), and also the “breath of wind” (Sumire Matsubara) and they’re all prepared to love him back to health and happiness. The question is whether you, potential viewer, are willing\able to swallow it.

I read the book because I read all the books. In it, Mack is described as “rather unremarkable,” “slightly overweight,” “a short white guy, balding, about to turn 56.” I bet Sam Worthington was over the moon when his agent sent him the script. It was a slightly uncomfortable read because its white author attempts ebonics, is kind of sexist despite the overt attempt to seem cool (but hello, black god is so 1997!), and constantly refers to “the trots” in the presence of god.

The shack is a literal place in the movie, but meant more as a metaphor for the house\prison you build out of your pain. As far as Christian movies go, well, this one doesn’t have Kirk Cameron, or, god forbid (ha! I made a funny) Nicolas Cage. It’s the kind of movie that, if you’re a believer, really makes you feel all warm and fuzzily validated, and if you’re not, well, you may smirk a few times, but it’s a fairly harmless work of fiction. I can see how people would find comfort in it. It’s humanizing, non-threatening, non-denominational, and embracing. But it’s not going to convert a single soul.

I don’t believe in god, and I take issue with religion, but my main problems with the film were ones like: how is god not a vegetarian? And how on earth do you let her do dishes? I can’t even let my Grandma do the dishes, and Mack’s allowing himself to be waited on BY GOD. And where did the holy spirit get those cute sandals?

Yes, some of the metaphors reach too far, and yes some of the sermonizing hits you over the head like a rubber mallet. But you know what? Octavia Spencer couldn’t be any better if she was a god. She’s sublime and note-perfect, in this and in everything. The Shack is still too heavy-handed for me to recommend it, but I will say that if you believe, and you struggle to reconcile belief with life’s tragedies, then maybe this film can shine a little light in your direction. I’m not especially fond of The Shack, but if you’re looking for some spiritual guidance, you could do worse.

 

 

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22 thoughts on “The Shack

  1. Brittani

    I never saw this, and probably never will, but I kind of love the fact that a lot of conservative Christians got their panties in a wad because God was played by a woman. Patriarchy tears are delicious.

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    1. ninvoid99

      I’m totally with you on this Brittani. I have no plans on seeing it. I really detest faith-based films as they often hone in heavy-handed messages of faith.

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  2. Pingback: The Shack – MyAwesomesite

  3. Liz A.

    Sounds like it would irritate the hell out of me. (Oooh, a pun!) I like a bit of woo-woo, but when I saw the trailer for this… I wasn’t sure. I think I’ll have to skip this one.

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  4. Jason

    I thought this movie was okay. A bit cheesy in its religious overtones, but the story is somewhat interesting and the cast is pretty solid (Worthington, Spencer and even McGraw)

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  5. Dell on Movies (@w_ott3)

    I’ve seen the trailer and it looks all sorts of cheesy and, yes, heavy-handed. Judging from your review, that’s about right. I’m sure I’ll see it at some point since my wife loves such movies…and Octavia Spencer. I’m just not in a hurry.

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  6. Shawna

    I haven’t yet read the book, but did enjoy the movie. As a Christian helped me make better sense of some ideals that I struggle with. Otherwise, the cast was great and Octavia is EVERYTHING. As always she was perfect. 😊

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  7. calensariel

    I’m certainly a believer (of some ilk — still trying to sort that all out but better since writing Seeker), but I didn’t like the book particularly. The most redeeming idea I found in it was that “God” can be many things to many people (in my interpretation). I was angry at the end of the book because I’m much too human. But I will say that I realized reading it that you practice forgiveness for YOURSELF, not to forgive someone else. Otherwise the pain intensifies and the walls grow closer and closer. I didn’t see the movie. I was so sick of pastors writing books AGAINST The Shack, and Christians bitching about whether Spirit was going to “shimmer” or not in the movie that I just couldn’t take anymore. Plus I was irked that Papa was Whoopie Goldberg or Queen Latifa!

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  8. Sarca

    Funny, I just watched a trailer for this film the other day…and thought to myself that The Shack will be the next film my parents cling to…you know, like previously their thing was The Passion of the Christ…or Joel Osteen…lordy…

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  9. Jeff the Chef

    The Holy Spirit goes to Ross. You gotta go to Ross. Everyone knows that. Mack lets God wait on him because he’s a man and she’s a woman – and also because I think that’s what many Christians actually want – which they’d realize if they were to spend some time thinking it through – a God who waits on them. I found this movie to be so uninspiring and uninventive.

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  10. tubularsock

    “Holy Shit” as only the Pope could say! Your description was wonderfully good enough for me. Tubularsock would have to shift to a higher quality of drugs to put up with that!

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  11. reocochran

    I watched this and felt blessed to see beauty and lovely images of (to me), what heaven would be like. I did feel forgiveness towards ourselves is a meaningful message of how I view new versus old faith and religion. No one should judge another nor their grief, pain and anguish. The acting was pretty good, too. I would give it a B+, Jay.

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  12. Divorce With Me

    Sounds corny. Some books just don’t translate well into movies. The premise makes me roll my eyes. And I know that’s mainly unfair bias on my part.

    Thank you for the very fair review. I think you walked the line well of not bashing it for the religious/faith based aspect but looked at it as entertainment. I don’t think many people can do that.

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