Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer
The Shack has a lot going against it from the start, and a fine argument can be had whether the uncinematic source material or Sam Worthington is more to blame. William P. Young released this self-published bestseller back in 2007, and the movie, directed by Stuart Hazeldine and written by John Fusco (screenwriter of two of my personal favorites, Young Guns and Young Guns II), attempts to wring some visual excitement out of a grieving father chatting with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost for nearly two and a half hours.
Despite rare visual pizzazz, it does not succeed at channeling its inner What Dreams May Come. Instead, the audience is mostly treated to new age-y, Christian mumbo jumbo about mysterious ways being the reason bad things happen to good people, like the poor young daughter of Mack Phillips (Worthington). Her murder by a probable serial killer sends Mack into a spiral of grief. (Can we also address the fact that Young named his main character Mackenzie Phillips? Awkward.)
The movie’s best feature is Tim McGraw, who has aged into a kinder, gentler Billy Bob Thornton. Too bad his neighbor, Willie, does not pop by the cabin inhabited by Octavia Spencer’s God—called “Papa” by Mack’s family—Jesus (Avraham Aviv Alush) and Sarayu (Sumire), aka the Holy Spirit. First the bestselling book was savaged by pastors and theologians; now its movie adaptation has arrived for its own critical thrashing. This trip to The Shack will quickly induce cabin fever.