Rated: PG-13 for thematic material including some violence. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: March 3, 2017 Released by: Lions Gate Films
Disappointing, overlong faith-based drama set in the Oregon wild appealing to fans of beloved novel by self-publisher William P. Young, as well as similar, but less heavy-handed genre entries like Miracles From Heaven and Heaven Is For Real stars Sam Worthington (Everest, Avatar) and Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, Bad Santa 2). As well as Tim McGraw (with a country-flavored soundtrack) as a voice-over neighborly presence, but what can't shun what becomes rather overbearingly didactic.
Stuart Hazeldine's The Shack is monotonic and filled with viable ideas, but delivered with stained-glass awkwardness in a sappy spiritual comforting manner in unifying past and present traumas. That is actually a departure given how moments of levity don't really make the melodrama as heartfelt as it probably was on the printed page.
Worthington's stolid Mack Phillips is a grateful married man with a very pious missus, Nan (Radha Mitchell), who undergoes much heartache after coming back to shore on a near drowning incident for his son while on a family camping trip. An abduction and presumed death takes Mack on trek from his crisis of loss when some mail (from a 1970s typewriter) signed by Spencer's sweet, life-affirming baking-extraordinaire 'Papa' (the moniker referenced by his clan as God). A gender shape-shifter of this character comes by way of veteran Graham Greene.
Not to say that Hazeldine doesn't have a workmanlike production as well considering the lighting by ace lenser Declan Quinn and some digital effects that make use of Mack's 'transformation' as the intended thematic resonance revolves around a difficult childhood. The strife has a modicum poignancy when it comes to Mack's conversation with an older daughter (Megan Charpentier). But, The Shack doesn't have solid, convincing Christian footing in promoting its values often due to the helmer's plodding approach, compounded by gapes and corny line-readings.
There's a Middle-Eastern carpenter in Jesus (Avrdrum Aviv Aldr), a creative spirit in a green-thumbed Sarazu (Japanese celebrity Sumine), as well as Alice Braga's 'Wisdom' known as Sophia who figures more prominently later in the proceedings. Yet, Spencer (a change of pace from George Burns or Morgan Freeman, for example) and Worthington just aren't as good as they should be opposite one another in a place that almost appears almost like a luminous glen out of a Disney feature. In a season for the desired demographic being in a more impassioned penitential position, the cruelness that mires Mack just doesn't reinforce motifs of forgiveness and humanity in the grand scheme of Papa (one of his or her many titles).