‘The Shack’ Review: No Love for This Shack

'The Shack'

Movie Rating:

0.5

It’s possible that we’ll see a worse movie released in 2017 than ‘The Shack’, but that’s only because life is full of surprises, not because this complete failure is remotely redeemable.

As I must any time that I rip apart a Christian-sploitation movie, I must now take a moment to make clear that tearing down ‘The Shack’ is in no way an attempt to ridicule a specific religion or the beliefs of those who follow it. I’m merely acknowledging that this movie is a total train wreck. The fact that it’s tied so deeply to a specific faith is not its primary failing. That’s just the most unfortunate side effect of this nonsense.

‘The Shack’ is based on a bestselling novel, which is hopefully far better than the garbage movie that came from it. Sam Worthington plays Mack, a man who loves his family more than anything in the world other than G-O-D. That puts him in a pickle when a strange series of events leads to his youngest daughter being kidnapped and murdered through no fault of his own. Of course, Mack blames himself, as does everyone else in his family. He’s understandably stuck in a deep depression. Then things go all topsy-turvy when he receives a letter that seems to be signed by God, inviting him to the cabin where his daughter was murdered. He treks out there and, sure enough, God appears to him in various forms, including Octavia Spencer playing both a gender and racial stereotype. The reason why God decided to appear to our plucky protagonist? Why, to teach him how important it is that he forgive his child’s murderer, of course!

Yes, that’s right. This is a movie about the value of finding the humanity in a kiddie killer. How Christian! (I mean, I know it technically is… but seriously.)

Obviously, forgiveness is one of the key tenets of Christianity, and ‘The Shack’ does admirably try to push that concept to a deliberate extreme. The movie isn’t pro child murder by any stretch of the imagination. It goes out of its way to make it clear that murdering children is, you know, wrong. Good for the filmmakers for acknowledging that fact. However, the attempts to explain why this character should forgive that act are limited to the most cartoonishly simplistic psychoanalysis (i.e. the kiddie murderer must have had a bad childhood).

We don’t learn the specifics because that would be a step too far down a rabbit hole of tastelessness. Instead, Mack comes to accept that his own abusive father was even more abused as a child. So, if Mack can forgive daddy, then he must also forgive this monster. This is all explained through an uncomfortably preachy sequence in which God demands that Mack decide which of his surviving children he would send to Hell. No surprise, papa Mack doesn’t take too kindly to that question, but he’s forced to realize that this is God’s big dilemma as well when the Bearded One decides who gets to join the big toga party in the sky. Again, it’s clear what the writers were going for; it’s just rather icky and manipulative.

Beyond that, the film is a cornball festival of cheap effects and aggressive heartstring pulling to the point of painful annoyance. In one scene, one of the faces of God not only teaches Mack how to walk on water, but how to run across the lake in a cheapo ‘Chariots of Fire’ montage so laughable that it could easily be viewed as an Adult Swim parody of bad Christian melodrama without altering a frame. Acting is pretty rough all around, aside from Octavia Spencer, who has such an endearing presence that she avoids embarrassing herself. As for everyone else, be prepared for wooden pageantry acting that would be unacceptable in regional theater. Sam Worthington can barely even be bothered to conceal his Australian accent. To be fair, who can blame him? Only a few short years ago, he headlined the most successful blockbuster ever made. He shouldn’t have to star in quick-buck crap like ‘The Shack’ anymore. It’s a safe bet that Worthington probably went through his own existential crisis during production that was completely different from the one he portrayed.

The saddest thing about movies like ‘The Shack’ is that they’re essentially manipulating and exploiting the faith of good people who deserve better. While there’s nothing wrong with Christian-focused entertainment, those movies should be held to the same standard as the secular filmmaking world. To release insultingly produced movies like ‘The Shack’ (which features CGI visions of Heaven that would have felt insultingly cheap as cut-scenes in a mid-’90s PlayStation game) is taking advantage of a captive audience for financial gain. Granted, that’s how most movies operate, but since this one is taking advantage people’s faith, it’s extra gross, even if the filmmakers themselves are Christian.

Of course, that criticism is true of most direct-to-church-basement productions and the weird explosion in theatrical releases for such projects that ‘The Shack’ has capitalized on. The fact that this movie also preaches forgiveness for child murderers… well… that’s just inappropriate. ‘The Shack’ is easily the worst entry in the recent explosion of theatrically released Biblical fan fiction. This disaster will be tough to top and will likely become a pop culture punchline if enough secular eyeballs see this nasty, exploitative cash grab.

See if you can deliver a movie worse than this, 2017. I dare you.

4 comments

  1. Lisa

    Lisa A – saw the movie with my Husband & two other friends – we loved it. Critics have their heads You know where – think they Seriously need to examine themselves (in this case)!!! Who wouldn’t luv luv luv this movie. Usually I agree 98% – 100% w/the Critics – What is up w/them, in this case? Anyone else feel the same way???

    • Its all going to depend, quite a lot of people wont luv luv luv this movie, especially if they aren’t religious 😉

      I read the book a couple of years back and it was good, I enjoyed it but since then, I’m not a religious person anymore but that doesn’t take anything away from this being a pretty good fictional story based around faith, soon as I saw Sam Worthington in the trailer for this though, I didn’t feel this would have the emotional weight it should have, its definitely a story that can pull on your heartstrings but of course, like so many other faith based movies, it gets too drawn into its own heavy handedness of the faith part instead of also telling a good story.

      Take God’s Not Dead for example, a shameful movie really depicting Atheism in such a bad light, its clear that the makers of that film have no idea what Atheism is really about, just that Atheists are all mean, self loathing bastards who don’t care about people, especially those with religion, it was such a bad movie and again got caught up in preaching its message instead of making an actual good film.

      Critics, especially ones that review major films have to look at the movie itself, just because it panders to the religious crowd certainly doesn’t make it a good film, but people of faith cant see past any of that because it brings a message they love, its the same thing as Twilight nuts defending the books and movies, which are both some of the worst crap you’ll ever see or read but they just cant admit it to themselves 🙂

  2. Courtney

    I liked it!! Some of these critics are just morons who just like to flap their big mouths & ignorant negativity! However I do agree that Sam W. Could’ve done a much better job of sustaining his accent as it would come and go. I felt he could’ve acted much better than he did bc it seemed like he just didn’t care. But I liked God & all the other ppl. I did not think it was even remotely close to as bad as the critics are saying!

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