After months of both anticipation and controversy, The Shack (based on William P. Young's 2007 bestseller) underwhelmed. While I won't be singing its praises or seeing it a second time, I can't come down too hard on it either since some seekers might emerge from the theater wanting to learn more about God. 2.5 out of 5.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
As to The Big Issue: Yes, The Trinity is portrayed as three people. Nowhere in Scripture do we find the Holy Spirit embodied as a person. When Mack asks them the important question, "Which one of you… [is God]?" they respond in unison, "I am." God the Father being portrayed as a woman is addressed, and Papa explains that the white beard Mack expected God to have was that of Santa Claus. Later in the film, Papa is portrayed as an elderly man (Graham Greene) at the moment when Mack most needs a father figure.
Despite its problems, there is a lot of wisdom shared in The Shack. Mack accuses God of turning his back on those he loves - including Jesus when he died on the cross. But God says he never left him and never left Mack either. On Mack's journey to forgive his father and Missy's killer, God teaches him that though Mack is truly loved, evil finds its way into the world. That is where God can work "incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies." He just needs Mack's trust. Another poignant scene involves Mack and Sophia, the personification of wisdom. Mack is asked to cast judgment on criminals, then upon his teen children who are sinners themselves. Sophia insists that Mack choose one child to condemn to hell, but Mack says he'd sacrifice himself in their place. That is when Sophia makes the connection to God giving Jesus to die on the cross: "You judged your kids worthy of love even though it cost you everything. Now you know Papa's heart."
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material including some violence
- Language/Profanity: Mack says, “Oh my God” when he tries God's cooking. God gives him a look and the scene is played for a laugh.
- Sexuality/Nudity: The only questionable moment came when Mack's wife made a comment about "feeling lucky." However, it served as a double entendre for the couple's upcoming fishing trip.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: Mack's father is shown physically abusing mother and son when Mack is a child. A canoe accident involving Mack's elder daughter and son is intense. Mack's son, Josh, becomes trapped in the canoe netting and remains unconscious until his father performs CPR. Mack's daughter's bloody dress that she wore during her murder is shown multiple times. Mack washes blood off his hands after falling on ice. There is a near collision involving Mack and an 18-wheeler. Mack comes to the shack armed with a pistol. He gets violent at the shack and throws chairs. He then points the gun at himself, though he does not pull the trigger. Mack has a dream in which he is falling through a cave-like tunnel and when he hits the ground, his daughter Missy is kidnapped. Mack hallucinates an image of his son drowning underwater while in a canoe on the lake; then the water turns black and his boat starts to sink. Missy's body is found and shown in a burial cloth. There is a car accident resulting in an actual collision.
Drugs/Alcohol: Mack's father is called an alcoholic and pictured with liquor. There is also a drug dealer shown during the "judgment" scene.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: People who are looking for a basic explanation of who the Trinity is; those looking to start a conversation about Christianity with their friends; people who enjoyed the bestselling novel.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Children, scriptural purists uncomfortable with extra-biblical explanations of God, people who are sensitive to scary images or children in danger.
The Shack, directed by Stuart Hazeldine, opened in theaters March 3, 2017; available for home viewing May 30, 2017. It runs 132 minutes and stars Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, Aviv Alush, Tim McGraw, Radha Mitchell, Alice Braga, Graham Greene and Sumire Matsubara. Watch the trailer for The Shack here.
Carrie Dedrick is Crosswalk.com's Editor for Family Content.
Publication date: March 1, 2017