By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
You knew all about The Shack and how much it wasn’t for you as soon as you read that first synopsis, or watched that first trailer, didn’t you? I didn’t even try to assign this poison pill to a writer, because the proof was in the rank pudding in the back of the fridge.
“Nope”- writers everywhere.
Well, you’re right and you’re wrong. The Shack tells the story of a blandly handsome Australo-Texa-Oregonian family man (Sam Worthington) who goes into the woods to the shack where his little girl was killed by a serial killer, and there finds God, or more precisely, the Holy Trinity (Octavia Spencer/Avraham Aviv Alush/Sumire Matsubara). Life lessons ensue.
Hey, the Columbia River Gorge sure is beautiful. Also, I have to say, Tim McGraw has become a sneakily authentic actor. They really should have given him the lead. Oh, and it’s at least nice to see a multicultural Godhead.
Because whatever Jesus looked like, it sure wasn’t this Aryan wet dream.
Well, that’s all the good I had to say about the film for roughly half of its daunting 132 minute runtime, which I was going to describe as “adding significant injury to the insult of this film”. I’m full of good lines like that, at least I tell myself.
Something funny happened on the way to the forum, though- the film’s message started to connect. Probably it started with Alice Braga’s scene as Wisdom (not, ummm, generally a separate Christian entity, but…). In it she asks why Worthington feels he can judge God, or anyone, all who where innocent once, all who suffered pains and deprivations from living in a world of sin that twisted them in different ways, some more severe and over than others. She then puts him in that judgment chair by demanding he choose one of his teenage children for heaven and one for damnation. They both have sinned against him, disobeyed him, tried to deceive him. But, how could he? He begs to sacrifice himself instead, and then understands.
We make ourselves the judge of everyone and everything around us, with our limited perspectives and biases, find ourselves to be wrong as or more often than right, and yet insist on control, on being that judge, on squeezing a steering wheel to broad for us to even get our fingers around and pretending like we can in any way actually turn it. What is faith, then, but releasing that wheel?
This is still decidedly not a good movie. The Nicholas Sparks meets Thomas Kincaid aesthetics (a comparison I didn’t come up with, but which fits the film like a glove) are as hammy as the humor, and Sam Worthington and his dodgy accent and artfully wind-tousled leading man hair and utterly forgettable face just make me sad. He’s Capital ‘A’ acting here, not helped by a script that has a strange sense of character motivations and thought processes for the whole setup of the film, which seems like about half of it.
I’m not sure if Sam Worthington’s mother knows if this is Sam Worthington or not.
Speaking of the script, it fumbles most of Worthington’s childhood backstory in some truly bizarre ways. Nevermind the drunk father spanking his son over a tree in the middle of a thunderstorm scene, how about where a 13 year old Worthington POISONS HIS FATHER TO DEATH before we even hit the 15 minute mark?
This apparently wasn’t in the book, and while I kinddaa can see where they wanted to go with this addition, it most certainly doesn’t get there, as the later scene in which his father’s spirit asks him for forgiveness is under cut ever so slightly by the fact that he POISONED HIS FATHER TO DEATH.
While it packed more of a message than I thought possible from, well, everything I’d learned about the film leading up to and through watching the first half of it, this is still a product of what I like to call Commercial Christianity. You know, the kind that is a bit more worried about quadrants and happy Grandparents and tax dodges (whatever happen to ‘Render unto Caesar’, Superchurch Friends?) than its central message from time to time. Lines like “Poppa is my wife’s nickname for God”, or the fact that God prefers Apple products, or the fact that this doubled Silence‘s gross in just its first weekend do set my teeth to grinding ever so slightly even afterwards.
Same subject, just a tad more depth and nuance.
The Shack is most of a very good message buried in a very bad movie. Unfortunately, those unreceptive to the former are not going to be able to get past the latter.
The Shack (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: “Papa”
Take a Drink: “mess”
Take a Drink: for yellow labs, SUVs, campfire songs, blue jeans, etc, etc
Take a Drink: for bugs, particularly ladybugs
Take a Drink: for popular music
Do a Shot: Wash your hands! You’ll ruin God’s pies!
Do a Shot: whenever you suspect the director researched the most cliche way he could shoot a scene