The Shack

By: Nick Ferwerda

Mackenzie Phillips (Avatar’s Sam Worthington) is a family man who grew up with a tough childhood.  Grateful and married, everything in his life – at this point – seems to be going great.

When returning to shore after an incident out on the water with his two eldest children during a camping trip, Mackenzie notices his youngest child, Missy (Amélie Eve) is missing.  The assumed death along with Missy’s empty-casket funeral sends Mackenzie into a deep depression, making him question his faith entirely.

Months later, Mack receives a very strange piece of mail signed by someone named Papa, the name his family calls God.  The message tells Mack to go back to the shack where Missy was possibly murdered.  After much contemplation, Mackenzie sets off on a journey that will ultimately change his life and help him find God or ‘Papa’ (Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer).

The Shack is an adaptation of the best-selling faith-based novel written by William P. Young.  Young’s self-published success sold over one million copies worldwide and received very good reviews.  Unfortunately, this film adaptation by BAFTA award nominee Stuart Hazeldine does not live up to those expectations.  Even as someone who was lukewarm on Young’s novel, I could, at least, appreciate its intentions – something Hazeldine’s baggy film makes difficult to do.

The film had the potential to be great starting with screenwriters John Fusco (Young Guns, The Forbidden Kingdom, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny), Destin Daniel Cretton, (Short Term 12) and new writer Andrew Lanham.  However, between the three of them, the writing consists of cheesy dialogue, plot holes, and weak pacing.  The lacklustre script could very well connect to Hazeldine’s mediocre direction and the lack of motivation by Worthington and Spencer, two otherwise great actors.  Other performances featured in The Shack are just as monotone and careless.

I left The Shack feeling let down.  Not just because the film doesn’t compare to the material its based on, but because there were moments where it seemed to be more of a comedy then a drama.  The Shack is a disappointing, emotional misfire.


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Nick Ferwerda: @NickFerwerda

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