May 28, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: THE SHACK

Starring Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, Aviv Alush, Sumire, Radha Mitchell, Tim McGraw, Graham Greene. Directed by Stuart Hazeldine. (2017, 132 min).

Really, God?

My brutal, alcoholic dad regularly beats the hell out of me & Mom until I'm finally forced to stop his reign of terror myself, and you want me to forgive him? Then my youngest daughter gets abducted and murdered by a serial killer, and your advice for dealing with pain that no parent should ever be forced to endure is simply let it go and forgive that guy???

That's the gist of The Shack, based on the bestseller by William Paul Young, whose own story is more  interesting than anything in this film. Yet another faith-based movie that mostly preaches to the converted, Sam Worthington plays Mack, a grieving father who, months later, still can't get over the tragedy (Entire months, huh? What a crybaby). Too bad he couldn't be more like the rest of his family, who appear to mourn poor Missy for about as long as one would cry over a vehicle-stricken pet.

But this is all about Mack. In fact, before it's even confirmed that Missy is dead, his wife (Radha Mitchell) appears more concerned about comforting her husband than their missing daughter.

"Dude, you were supposed to bring the bait."
Later, Mack gets a cryptic letter, inviting him to the same shack in the woods where Missy was murdered. It turns out the letter is from God, here to help Mack deal with his pain. Yeah...great plan. What better place to come-to-terms with a murdered child than revisiting the place where her bloodstains are still on the floor? God manifests himself as three people, Papa (Octavia Spencer), Jesus (Aviv Alush) and Sarayu (Sumire). They're sort of a Holy Trinity tag-team, taking turns explaining life's bigger picture, God's plan and why we should never judge others (even if they're serial killers).

And here lies the biggest problem with The Shack: God isn't all that convincing, no matter how eloquently he presents his argument, mostly through ambiguous riddles and symbolic illusions. The conceit of "get over it and trust God" is almost offensively simplistic when applied to the magnitude of a murdered child, ultimately rendering this film more depressing and fatalistic than inspirational.

As Mack is about to discover, there are no problems so insurmountable that a Necronomicon can't fix.
Of course, The Shack is obviously aiming for a specific audience, but one would think even those whose daily diet consists of blind acceptance would appreciate a side order of justice in this case. If we're expected to swallow the idea of a grieving parent learning to forgive a serial killer over a single weekend, that message wouldn't really diminish if the murderer was at-least caught and brought to justice. In fact, a climax where Mack confronts the killer face-to-face to test his newfound forgiveness would arguably convey the movie's message more effectively. Simply from a story standpoint, having the killer get away scot-free is like rubbing salt in an open wound, making it a challenge for even the most faithful to get on-board with God's plan. 

Elsewhere, despite some pretty locations and a charming, laid-back performance by Aviv Alush,The Shack moves at a snail's pace towards its inevitable denouement, offering no surprises, a dull checklist of revelations by a main character who isn't all that interesting to begin with. Aside from occasionally reminding the viewer how horrible losing a child would be, the film is emotionally vacant, its 'inspirational' message ringing completely hollow.  

FEATURETTES: "Something Bigger Than Ourselves: The Making of The Shack"; "Premiere Night: A Blessed Evening"; "God's Heart for Humanity"; "Touched by God: A Writer's Journey"
"HEAVEN KNOWS" - The Power of Song with Hillsong United
AUDIO COMMENTARY - by Director Stuart Hazeldine

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