Directed by Stuart Hazeldine. Produced by Gil Netter and Brad Cummings. Written by John Fusco. Release date: March 3, 2017.
I wasn’t going to review The Shack. I wasn’t even going to watch The Shack. I had almost completely forgotten that it was a thing until I found out that The Belko Experiment – a film I was actually interested in – didn’t receive distribution here and I had to find a second film to review. So, it was either this or The Great Wall, and the latter bombed so hard that it’s already out of theaters here. I saw it and it wouldn’t have made for a great review anyway. So, here we are.
The Shack, a movie about a man (Sam Worthington) coming face-to-face with God (Octavia Spencer), Jesus (Aviv Alush), and the Holy Spirit (Sumire), is perhaps the dullest trip to the cinema one could make. Not the worst, but the most boring given the premise. That premise sees a man lose a daughter, get depressed, find a note from God, goes to meet God at a cabin, and then spend a significant amount of time talking to God and various forms of God about things and stuff until he’s not so sad anymore. All the while, this man – in an unconvincing and frequently broken American accent – emotes about as much as a kid does when a balloon pops. A 12-year-old kid. And it wasn’t even this kid’s balloon. It was someone else’s.
There’s one scene in the movie in which Worthington has to shed a single tear – one that will be collected by a character who collects tears, because what else would one do with them? – and I’m about 90% sure that the tear was CGI. Worthington is so bad in this movie that it makes you wonder if the only reason he still gets cast is because Avatar made close to $3 billion. He’s not the reason Avatar made money, guys. Nobody even remembers that he’s in that movie! “Who was the lead of Avatar?” “Uh, the blue alien.”
So, you’ve got Worthington, whose character loses a child, playing the role as blandly as humanly possible, doing an accent that vaguely resembles a generic American one whenever he doesn’t have to speak at a decibel that’s capable of being heard, and he gets to speak with Octavia Spencer and two actors of whom you’ve probably never heard, but who outclass him by at least 30 times. They’re playing divine characters here, but nothing that happens and nothing that gets talked about is any more interesting than if he had just spoken to a priest. And The Shack runs for over 130 minutes long.
Maybe I expected too much. Movies aimed at a Christian audience – “Sermon Movies,” I like to call them, although it’s slightly less fitting here – often revolve around a character having a problem and another character reminding them that their faith will solve that problem. Now, a character within the film is literally meeting God, and he can’t even look moderately amused at the situation in which he finds himself.
The Shack is a movie that involves a man meeting the Trinity and … doesn’t even seem to care a whole lot. That about sums up the entire agonizingly long experience of watching the movie.
The dialogue is bad. There isn’t another way to describe it. It’s not overly preachy, which is one of the only things The Shack has going for it, but it’s so trite, uninteresting, repetitive, and a slog to listen to. And since the vast majority of the movie is talking, that means we’ve got nothing to do. And that’s not even getting into its “heretical” aspects, which don’t exactly come from the Bible, and will be more disagreeable to its target audience than any of the boring dialogue. I mean, Jesus decries religion in this movie, so that’s something – although, again, it’s done in such a dull way that it’s almost not even worth talking about. In another movie like this, that would be burying the lede. In this one? It’s just a scene that goes by.
The only other thing that The Shack does well is that it allows its protagonist to enter a darker place than most characters in these types of films. The first scenes in the film showcase childhood abuse, and after losing his child, he becomes very depressed. And if a good actor was playing the character, we might, perhaps, even begin to care about him. We can tell that the movie wants us to, but Worthington is so bad that we just can’t. It never feels even remotely real. None of the other actors are bad, overall, but they’re also not the emotional core of the film. I know I keep going back to this well, but with re-written dialogue and a good actor in the lead, The Shack might’ve been an okay movie. As it is? It’s garbage.
The Shack is a movie that involves a man meeting the Trinity and … doesn’t even seem to care a whole lot. That about sums up the entire agonizingly long experience of watching the movie: it’s something that should, theoretically, be very interesting, but in the end, it amounts to nothing more than a generated yawn. Sam Worthington ruins whatever his character had going for him, the dialogue further dulls an overlong and underdeveloped story, and the entire experience is excruciatingly boring.
Bottom Line: A potentially salvageable premise is wasted thanks to a terrible lead actor and awful dialogue.
Recommendation: There’s really no reason to watch The Shack.[rating=0.5]
If you want more of Matthew “Marter” Parkinson, you can follow him on the Twitter @Martertweet.