Review: Grieving father visits God in shoddy ‘Shack’

Sam Worthington meets the Almighty in preachy, overlong film

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“The Shack” is a grief-packed journey through loss, bargaining and acceptance that feels like an overly long church sermon.

Based on the 2007 novel, “The Shack” follows Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington), a father whose daughter is abducted and killed while on a family camping trip. Mack is already haunted by demons from his past, brought on by his abusive father and the decisions he made to handle that matter.

Combined, these crises leave him a shell of a man. One day during a snowstorm, he visits his mailbox and finds a letter from “Papa,” the name his family uses for God. It’s an invitation to a secluded wooded shed, where he spends a weekend with three manifestations of the Almighty, played by Octavia Spencer, Avraham Aviv Alush and Sumire Matsubara.

They help Mack work through his loss in various ways, and he’s even able to foot race a superchill Jesus on top of a picturesque lake.

“The Shack” presents a series of lessons along Mack’s journey to healing; “if anything matters, then everything matters” is one of them. It’s that kind of circle talk that typifies the film, and keeps it from having anything to offer those not in its targeted audience.

Director Stuart Hazeldine filters everything through a dreamlike gauze, which gives the film a hazy, made-for-television feel. Its special effects — including that water-walk, and several obviously green-screened backgrounds — are shoddy, which also detract from its impact.

“How was it?” Mack is asked after one of his visits, to which he replies, “Terrible! And wonderful.” Split the difference, and “The Shack” is right there in the middle.

(313) 222-2284


‘The Shack’


Rated PG-13: for thematic material including some violence

Running time: 132 minutes