Essentially a golden-hued meditation on The Problem of Suffering, this adaptation of William P. Young’s best-selling Christian novel offers exactly what its target audience is looking for, and exactly nothing for anyone else. Sam Worthington stars as Mack, a husband and father who has lost his faith and hope after a family tragedy, who finds himself in an encounter with the Holy Trinity (Octavia Spencer, Avraham Aviv Alush and Sumire Matsubara) on the site of that tragedy. There’s enough conviction and professionalism in the performances—Worthington’s occasional accent slips notwithstanding—that the pervasive beatific smiles don’t become nearly as grating as they should have. But between the pointless Tim McGraw narration and the dialogue exchanges reducing the deepest quandaries of faith to comforting koans, it all feels like soft-serve spirituality for the faith-based audience. Wrestling with grief and despair is a messy business, but The Shack isn’t really concerned with showing us much of that messiness, beyond how it makes Mack’s daughter apparently reluctant to wash her hair. As long as we’re ready to say “hallelujah” by the time the CGI butterflies take wing, it’s done its job.
Director: Stuart Hazeldine
Producer: Gil Netter, Brad Cummings and Mike Drake
Cast: Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, Avraham Alush, Radha Mitchell, Alice Braga, Graham Greene, Tim McGraw, Sumire, Amélie Eve, Megan Charpentier, Gage Munroe, Ryan Robbins and Derek Hamilton