I saw the move The Shack with my parents this past weekend. I read the book in 2009, and I posted a book review on my other blog (which I no longer update BTW, but it’s there) after my read. I went back and read the book review, and surprisingly, I would say my movie review in 2017 would pretty much match my book review in 2009, but I’m going to do a brief review of the movie.
The movie opens by jumping around jerkily between the main character’s (Mack) childhood, his current life, and the event that brought on the “Great Sadness.” That was a bit disorienting and distracting because it’s not done well, but the movie finally settles down into a mostly linear timeline. The acting at the beginning is also kind of stunted among all the characters except for the adorable Missy. In the beginning of the movie the dialogue is almost all in a whisper especially from Sam Worthington’s “Mack” who I felt was trying to channel an angst-y Batman or Wolverine character. That was also quite frustrating, at times, during the whole movie. Except for two scenes that he played well Sam W. never quite sold me on the depth Mack’s suffering.
I did enjoy Octavia Spencer’s acting as God “aka “Papa.” “Jesus” and the “Holy Spirit” were more one-dimensional characters, but still endearing.
I will admit that I started crying when the Holy Spirit collected Mack’s tears, and my tears came again intermittently throughout the reminder of the movie, but this was due to the imagery and my own pain bubbling up. My mom kept passing me Kleenex, and she shed some tears also.
As I stated in my original book review Universalism is implied in the movie, but I’ve also found Universalism hinted at in many other Christian fiction books and movies. I didn’t feel this movie over played it. More on that in a moment. Some people were also upset that God is portrayed as a black woman (and then later as a Native-American “Great Spirit” man) and the Holy Spirit as an Asian woman, but I didn’t have a problem with it. When Mack questions this himself “Papa”/God says (loosely quoted), “I don’t think you could handle me as a father figure right now.”
Some evangelicals have been up in arms about the book’s Universalism implication since it came out in 2007-2008, and they’re just as upset about the movie version. Books have even been written to discredit the book. While I don’t ascribe to Universalism, I am an evangelical myself, I fail to see the need to go to such lengths to discredit a work of fiction. It’s overkill. Even if the story had been based on someone’s actual experience I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to discredit what someone experiences in a vision or near-death experience, but that’s neither here or there for this book. Read it for what it is…a story…and make your own conclusions. I get very frustrated at times with the Christian community for feeling they have to dissect everything down to the jot and tittle. Most people can make up their own minds about a story without theologians making their minds up for them. At the end of the day I always go back to God’s Word as the final authority in my life. A book or a movie is not going to change my mind one way or another.
Now, back to the movie. I enjoyed it for the same reasons I enjoyed the book. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have an encounter/vision of God, The Son, and Holy Spirit? The movie does make you think about God’s attributes, especially his justness and sovereignty. It also challenges us about judgment and forgiveness. More movies are coming out, even secular films, that are touching on that, and I think that it’s a good thing even if it doesn’t match our own theology to a tee.
Conclusion: Go into the movie, The Shack, as you would any movie. You’re seeing a story, in this case a fictional story, but a story that will make you think about God, and help you remember that while we will never understand everything that happens to us and others on this Earth in the end God truly is “very fond” of us.