(Disclaimer: This probably contains spoiler alerts! Well, not probably...it does.)
The Shack was a rather controversial book amongst the Christian community, as some have deemed it heretical and unbiblical. For the past several years, I've been on the anti-Shack train and was very skeptical when anyone praised the book. However, I decided to give the movie a chance but didn't expect to actually like it. I was surprised by how much I not only liked the movie, but how much I loved it.
Here's my version of the plot: Mackenzie Phillips (aka Mack) had a rough upbringing and is still experiencing emotional scars from his past, but he is happily married to Nan with three children: Kate, Josh, and Missy. While on a family camping trip, Missy (who is the youngest, probably no more than six) is abducted and, it is later discovered, murdered at a shack in the mountains. The whole family is of course struggling to process through this horrific tragedy, especially Mack. He blames God for what has happened and even himself for not being able to rescue his precious daughter in time. He later receives a letter in the mail from "Papa", his wife's nickname for God, telling Mack to meet at the shack over the weekend. And Mack does.
The tragedy that occurs is, of course, disturbing and evokes heavy emotion as you see the impact on each of the family members. Though the pain and struggles they face are hard to watch, one of the greatest themes in this movie is healing and the movie depicts this journey for Mack specifically.
Ultimately, Mack meets God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, which is where much of the controversy originates. "Papa" is primarily portrayed by Octavia Spencer and can also change his form as he pleases. At first, I was uncomfortable with how each of the Trinity were portrayed. But then I realized: what beautiful imagery to depict how God sees us and to better understand his nature and character. I am not saying that God is a black woman because I do not believe this is an accurate depiction. My point is we often attribute things to him that he isn't and accuse him for not being who we think he should be. The Shack helps clarify common misconceptions about the likeness of God.
Through the portrayals of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Mack begins to understand the true God's character: God is good, he is at work through the pain, and he can redeem unspeakable sorrow.
The acting was, by no surprise, amazing and Sam Worthington did a remarkable job with the intense role as Mack Phillips. It was so easy to believe that he was actually the character experiencing pain and brokenness.
So many of the scenes were powerful and moving and yet, there is just enough humor to lift some of the somberness, a majority of which is supplied by Octavia Spencer's wit. She really was the perfect actress to play that role! The movie never drags and moves along at a steady pace, which is quite commendable for any film that exceeds over two hours.
One of my only criticisms occurs at the end of the movie. Mack finds healing and transformation, but the narration conveys that he no longer feels sadness about the death of Missy. While I absolutely believe that Mack could experience such a dramatic transformation, I do not think that the entirety of that sadness would completely go away. Joy can reign, but I would think that there would always be a hole in their hearts on this side of heaven. Just my opinion and it's a pretty minor critique!
This movie definitely gave me a lot to reflect on and had powerful imagery, amazing special effects, and stellar acting. While there were mixed reviews on the book and movie, I give it two thumbs up!
Bottom-line: If you're debating seeing The Shack, I would highly encourage you to go for it! I think it's worth seeing in theaters, but if you want to save a few bucks, definitely check it out on RedBox, iTunes, etc.