The Shack is a film based on a very popular, best-selling book, about a man whose happy, fulfilled life is suddenly, tragically upended.
Mack (Sam Worthington) and Nan Phillips (Radha Mitchel) have a wonderfully happy marriage with three children — teens Kate and Josh, and young Missy. Mack is a loving and attentive father to the threesome, especially to the precocious Missy. It is in contrast to Mack’s own childhood where he and his mother were treated brutally by his alcoholic father.
We see the Phillips family in church and it is clear that Nan and the three kids are serious about their devotion to the faith. Mack is seen attending, but not very involved. He is not singing the hymns as everybody else is and he is clearly not paying much attention to the service.
While the family is on a camping trip, Mack is engaging with Missy about some colors and images in a project Missy is working on.
Mack is distracted by a problem involving Josh and Kate. When he returns, Missy is gone and nowhere to be found.
It is known that there is a serial killer in the area who preys on young girls. That is the apparent fate that has taken Missy. The police arrive and the trail leads to a broken-down shack where they find evidence that the unthinkable horror has happened.
Mack, Nan and the teens are devastated by the loss. Sometime later, Mack is outside their house, plowing the snow from the driveway when he finds a note in the mailbox.
The envelope has no stamp, no information except his name, Mackenzie. The note inside is a brief invitation to come to meet Papa at the shack — that shack where Missy was murdered. Papa is the nickname that Nan uses referring to God.
Mack cannot resist because he feels it might lead him to the killer and he can exact some revenge.
In the wilderness where the shack is situated, Mack encounters three individuals who are kind and welcoming.
They are situated in a very comfortable cabin in a warm, sunny area filled with flower gardens, all in the midst of the severe winter environment around them. (Shangri-La?)
The three individuals identify themselves as Papa/God (Octavia Spencer), Jesus (Avraham Aviv Alush) and the Holy Spirit (Sumire Matsubara).
Mack is incredulous, but becomes convinced they are real. He spends days there arguing about the notion that God is good when so many bad things are allowed to take place.
The Shack presents arguments and discussions about the Holy Trinity and its role in the universe, especially living beings. The interplay between Mack and the Divine characters does not seem to be in conflict with accepted Christian beliefs. It probably will not offend any Christian devotees.
The problem with the movie is its kitschy screenplay! The conversations and dialog that take place throughout the movie are often so flat that it is easy to know what words will come next.
Even many situations are predictable, including the climax. The lower grade of writing for the film makes it longer and slower than it could be.
Mack returns to his normal life with Nan and the teens. The deep depression that had threatened to tear them apart is overcome by their love for each other and the need to go on with life.
The performances of the players are satisfactory, on a par with the quality of the film. Except for Amélie Eve, the young girl who plays Missy. The screen shines when she appears in a scene.
The Shack is at Harkins Sedona 6 Theater.