Before I begin this review, I want to make something absolutely clear. I’m very well-known to bash the crap out of religious-themed films. Not because of the content, but because of how they are dealt from a cinematography standpoint. Usually, they have absolutely no idea on how to make an actual movie. Usually, they focus on the moral to the story more than anything else. Like acting? Like realistic confrontations with people. Like lighting. Like…everything. It’s usually so corny and so terrible, it’s hard not to review them because people HAVE to know that in 99% of all cases, religious-themed films are made only with Christians in mind. Even though that makes no logical sense. Most of them are about turning atheists to the “light side” – but the movies themselves aren’t even targeted at them! Oy. So many things. I have so many things to say about them. That’s why when I watched The Shack, I was blown away by how many things they actually got right this time around.
Alright, so The Shack is ultimately about a man that just went through a family tragedy. His little girl was abducted and later killed. A few years later, that same man is contacted by “Papa”, the name his daughter often used when she prayed to God. It basically said to hang out at the shack where his daughter was killed. Thinking it’s some sick joke, he heads to the shack with a gun in his hand. When he gets there, it’s just a run down abandoned shack, but moments later, it’s magically transformed to a fully furnished, beautiful lakeside shack. In it are three people all claiming to be God, or perhaps, the holy trinity, who offer him the answers he’s had questions to for so long.
First of all, I’ll also mention that this was first a book that I read with my mom, and there is something to be said about it…it’s not your typical religious-themed book. It’s dealt with in a different light, and a different tone than you usually find from your typical run-of-the-mill religious-themed book. And the same applies to the movie. This film will be the only movie I think I’ve ever seen that has a much more correct look and accent for Jesus. He’s dark-skinned and everything. Then you have Papa, who is visualized as a woman for the man’s sake.
When I think of this movie, I don’t necessarily consider it as a fully Christian movie. I like to instead visualize it as how Joan of Arcadia referenced Christianity or maybe even Bruce Almighty. These were also religious-themed, but they weren’t religious movies if you catch my drift. The theme is absolutely fine. You can use the theme without really preaching anything, because, in my mind, the Bible isn’t about preaching, it’s more about teaching a person how to be a decent human being.
PEOPLE SCORE – 10/10
Acting – 2|Characters – 2|Casting – 2|Importance – 2|Chemistry – 2
First off, we have a perfect, yes double-check it, a perfect score in the people category. You usually have really terrible acting in religious-themed films, and this time around, everyone honestly, truly did a great job with their ability to act, and I think a big part of that had to go with hiring actual actors for these roles, instead of local pastors and actor-wannabes, like other religious-themed movies where they all have a southern accent and are always giddy, even when something terrible happens. Nope, when something terrible happens, you feel it as a member of the audience. Also, this movie is all about characters, so it’s immediately memorable for who is in it. Plus, each of the characters, even though three of them are playing the same person, have independent qualities that make them independently important to the overall plot. Finally, everyone has really good chemistry with each other. Honestly, I’m having a hard time complaining about anything in this category…they just…did everything right.
WRITING SCORE – 10/10
Dialogue – 2|Balanced – 2|Story – 2|Originality – 2|Interesting – 2
Next up, we have another perfect scoring in the writing department. No, I can’t believe it, either. This film has a ton of dialogue, as the main character has a lot of questions regarding the actions God takes, and the answers are honest and honestly uniquely different from what you’d normally expect. It is also a balanced story as it just follows around one man who needs answers. At its heart, this is a movie about seeking help out when it’s needed, it’s also about how important it is regarding grief. I also see this as an original film in general and original in terms of religious-themed films. Finally, it definitely interesting, in my opinion.
BTS SCORE – 8/10
Visuals – 2|Directing – 2|Editing – 1|Advertisement – 2|Music – 1
Next up is another really high score – and that is the stuff going on behind-the-scenes. Okay, so first off, we actually do have some pretty good elements for the visuals. When you see the shack transform from a cold, dead place into something more living and vibrant…it was sort of like in The Chronicles of Narnia. The directing was also done really well, as the director had a bit of a task on his hand to not create something incredibly cheesy and stupid, and he honestly did a fantastic job there. The editing was typical, nothing impressive there. This was a movie that was as-advertised, and nothing really stood out with the music choices.
NARRATIVE ARC SCORE – 10/10
Introduction – 2|Inciting Incident – 2|Obstacles – 2|Climax – 2|Falling Action – 2
We have another perfect score when it comes to the narrative arc. The introduction had us meeting Mack and his family, and the devastating family tragedy he goes through. The inciting incident is ultimately when God writes to him and when he heads off to the shack. The obstacles is mostly when he’s not ready to let go, so he keeps asking God questions. The climax is also evidently clear, as is the falling action. Perfect score, indeed.
ENTERTAINMENT SCORE – 7/10
Rewatchability – 2|Fun – 2|Impulse/Buy – 1|Impusle/Talk – 1|Sucks Audience IN – 1
How about it’s overall entertainment score? I would say it’s pretty enjoyable in general, but nothing perfect. Put it this way – I definitely consider it a rewatchable movie, and I would even go looking for it in order to rewatch it. I had a fun time watching it, but I don’t have the strongest urge to buy it. I might buy it if it gets cheap enough, but that’s about it. I wouldn’t mind talking to some people about it, but again, the urge isn’t deep. Finally, I do believe it sucks the audience in during some parts, but not during the entire film.
TOTAL SPECIAL – 50/50
Religion – 10|Adaption – 10|Drama – 10|Fantasy – 10|Halfway Decent – 10
Finally, we’re up to the specialty questions that I wrote before seeing the movie. First and foremost – this is a religous-themed film. Those usually suck…bad. How was it dealt with in this movie? Well, here’s the thing. I am always okay with religious-themed movies when the following occurs: It’s rated R, or it takes place in historical times with Jesus, or when the people are speaking and interacting directly with God as a physical being…and this met at least one of those, so it’s good. How about adaption purposes? I read this book, and I can say that while this added some liberties, it was still very clearly honest with its source material. Next up, was this dramatic? Absolutely, one of the most dramatic movies I’ve seen this year. Regarding fantasy, how was that? Well, it’s a man talking to God in a shack that was abandoned two minutes earlier? Full points. Finally, is it halfway decent? Surprisingly…yes.
Rating – 95/100
(I’m as surprised as you, I assure you.)