Starring: Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, Radha Mitchell, Tim McGraw, Alice Braga, Megan Charpentier, Graham Greene (Rated PG – 132 min).
To my surprise, faith-based films have been on a kick in recent times attracting big name stars and growing production budgets, sharing stories across the silver screen that stray from traditional biblical prose still resonating higher power spiritual journeys with unusual broader appeal.
The Shack is such a tale, adapted from the popular book by author William P. Young. Looking at family man Mack Phillips (Australia’s own Sam Worthington), he loses faith when his youngest daughter is abducted and murdered by a serial killer lurking in the woods during a short vacation camping at the lake.
Wife Nan Phillips (another fine Australian talent, Radha Mitchell) was not present choosing to stay home. During a mishap concerning their son almost drowning, left alone, poppet Missy goes missing last seen sitting at the picnic table drawing. Obviously the world tumbles down, sinking into depression practically disregarding his wife and two kids, also grieving.
Earlier in the film, we learn Mack had a background of child abuse and actually poisoned his nasty father so the happiness which came from his own family is now dissolved. He discovers a random note in his letterbox when clearing his snow covered driveway summoning him to the the spot of the tragedy, signed by Papa. Significantly the name Papa is the name his wife refers to as God.
If non-religious people haven’t already tuned out by now due to church sing-a-longs or star gazing philosophies, the precipice may just be breached with the overtones about to happen. Arriving alone at the aforementioned shack, Mack almost takes his own life until being disturbed by a passing deer and what seems to be a man walking through the woods.
Ready to lead Mack to a beyond the pines Garden-of-Eden like area, it’s Jesus here to greet him in hope of an unlikely introduction to Papa. What follows will enlighten his feelings and adjust future thinking taking in to respect what Mack thought would be an impossible feat, forgiveness. In what seems like a weekend away learning how to bake and build, important deep life lessons are experienced that includes an afterlife scenario.
Easy target for ridicule, Worthington displayed enough dramatic ability to convey his emotional range from rage to love. Unfortunately Ms Mitchell is underused, her definitive talent needed to be lengthened. Soon to be seen in the completely opposite, IT, Megan Charpentier locks down the teenage angst brimming with sleight edge.
The plodding pace doesn’t help and a great scene with lovely Alice Braga inside a cave was one of many which reminded me of the 1998 Robin Williams afterlife fantasy, What Dreams May Come.
Not quite bible bashing, I found the alternative view of belief interesting. But the specific target audience for The Shack will enjoy every minute, certain patrons near me laughed at each biblical reference and literally sang out loud as if they were in a sermon. So it worked!
Shane A. Bassett  Related Articles: