‘The Shack’: A successful Christian film, despite cries of heresy

When I walked into the theater to see “The Shack,” I did not expect to be impressed. Directed by Stuart Hazeldine, it’s a film with Christian themes, and the genre is infamous for featuring poor acting, cheesy humor and predictable plots.

But “The Shack” doesn’t have any of that.

The character Willie (portrayed by country music star Tim McGraw) narrates the story of his friend Mack Phillips (portrayed by Sam Worthington) as Mack does a bit of soul searching.

Mack’s youngest child, Missy (portrayed by Amelie Eve), was murdered on a family camping trip, and her body has yet to be found. All the characters know is that her dress was found in an abandoned shack.

When Mack gets a letter inviting him to return to the shack, he goes. There, he meets God (portrayed by Octavia Spencer), who takes him on a journey of forgiveness and trust.

The film is based on the 2007 book of the same name. When author William Young printed 15 copies of his manuscript for family and friends, he never imagined that it would go on to be a New York Times Best Seller.

Despite the novel’s success, it was also subject to automatic criticism from Christians. The movie has experienced some of that same backlash, with some people calling it heresy.

“I guess I expected you to have a white beard.”

People have a problem with this story because it takes God out of the box our society puts him in. Jesus is what we expect him to be: a Middle Eastern man. But God is portrayed as a black woman, and the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman. They’re not at all what we expect them to look, act or sound like.

See the problem?

But here’s what else the film does: it shows God’s sense of humor and shows that, biblically speaking, God is not as simple as humans are.

Nay-sayers, like the Leading The Way organization, claim the film doesn’t show God’s “wrath” enough. Instead, God is a nice older lady who is “especially fond” of everybody. But the Bible clearly outlines that God will accept anyone at any point in his or her life.

So, theologically speaking, this movie is legit. Now, let’s get back to whether it’s any good or not.

“So, God has time to catch a few rays of sun?”

“Honey, you have no idea how much I’m doing right now.”

Despite its heavy themes, the film succeeds in being funny — the other people in the theater could barely keep themselves together at some points. It also succeeds at being the drama it is trying to be. The lady sitting in front of me was audibly sobbing at the end.

It’s also beautiful. With a heavy use of CGI, the film makes you feel like you’re in a dream world, which is exactly how Mack feels. To help that, soundtrack is scarce. We get more instrumentals and less singing, which helps the film not be so cheesy.

All in all, this film is worth the eight bucks it costs to see it in the theater. As a fan of the book, it was all I hoped it would be. It manages to be a great modern-day Christian movie, which is an accomplishment all by itself.

Rating: 4/5 stars