The Shack

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Shack Movie Poster Image
Sentimental faith-based adaptation explores grief, healing.
  • PG-13
  • 2017
  • 132 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 17 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 12 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Inspiring messages about asking for and seeking help and counsel and making sure to process grief in a healthy way instead of allowing it to consume you. Also messages about the power of forgiveness and redemption and the corrosive nature of judgment, anger, fear, and blame. For people of faith, there are messages about God always being with you, even during the hardest times and even when you don't think God is there. Also the comforting message that God is good and a power of love and that even when the unthinkable happens, it's not because God wanted or orchestrated those horrors/evils upon humans.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Despite his crisis of faith, Mack is a good man who cares about his family. Willie is a kind and selfless neighbor. The Holy Trinity is, of course, portrayed positively, seeing as they are God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit -- all wanting to show Mack how much they love him and helping him reflect and make necessary steps to heal and be the father and husband he wants to be. Nan is a supportive and loving mother and wife.

Violence

A brother and sister end up overboard from their canoe; the boy gets stuck underneath it and is drowning -- he survives but requires CPR. Missy goes missing and is never found but is presumed dead when her bloody dress is found in a known kidnapper's hidden shack in the woods. Mack cries and sobs. A dead child's body is shown for the briefest of moments. Her body is shrouded and buried.

Sex

Married couple embraces, hold hands, kisses.

Language

"What the heck," "idiots," "oh my god."

Consumerism

Ford Bronco, Ford Explorer, Toyota, Starcraft Starflyer Pop Up Camper, Coleman lantern.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Shack is based on author William P. Young's best-selling (but controversial) faith-based book. Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington) doubts the existence of God after his daughter is kidnapped and killed, but he ends up having a life-changing experience: He spends the weekend with the Holy Trinity, as personified by three people (including Octavia Spencer). There's no iffy language, drinking/smoking, or sex, but there are some disturbing scenes. Two children nearly drown while camping -- one requires CPR -- and a young girl goes missing and is presumed dead. The movie has inspiring messages about everything from seeking help/counsel to processing grief in a healthy way to the power of forgiveness. That said, the ideas related to God's role in people's lives will particularly resonate with Christians/those open to faith-based questions.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKim B. March 3, 2017

Teens and up can appreciate the messages

I personally loved this movie with all my heart and soul. I cried during a lot of the movie but it was because of the great portrayal of emotion by Sam Worthin... Continue reading
Adult Written byNora S. March 3, 2017
Teen, 17 years old Written bySkylar Milano March 3, 2017

A tearjerker

The mans daughter is abducted and killed later found in a known kidnappers house. I was sobbing so hard and couldn't stop. Don't bring kids younger th... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byictchis March 3, 2017

Makes you feel all good inside!!!!

I found this movie both touching and a tear jerker. Get ready for a whirlwind of emotions, as you experience God's love for him and everybody. I loved the... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on William P. Young's best-selling but controversial faith-based novel, THE SHACK tells the story of grieving father Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington). During a camping trip with his three children, Mack's youngest daughter, Missy, is abducted during a terrifying moment when his older children go overboard from their canoe. Missy is later presumed dead when her bloody dress is found in a backwoods shack. Months later, Sam receives a mysterious invitation in his mailbox to spend a time with "Papa" (his wife and children's nickname for God) at The Shack, something Sam at first thinks is simply a sick joke. Eventually he decides to return to the shack and winds up in the presence of Papa, a kind African-American woman (Octavia Spencer); Jesus, a Middle Eastern carpenter (Avraham Aviv Alush), and the Holy Spirit "Sarayu," a willowy Asian gardener (Sumire). During his time with the Trinity, Sam begins to heal and rededicate himself to his belief in and relationship with God.

Is it any good?

The talented cast elevates this sentimental faith-based adaptation above others in the genre. Although the story will clearly appeal mostly to the book's fans (a subset of Christians), it has some universalist themes that may draw in more a general audience. The multicultural, two-thirds-female depiction of the Holy Trinity is bound to delight some viewers and upset others.

Doctrinal considerations aside, The Shack benefits from the aforementioned cast and decent production values. Its biggest flaw is its length; two hours and 12 minutes is far too long for what's really a fairly simple story. The sequence featuring a personified "Wisdom" also feels contrived, since it doesn't fit with the otherwise strictly biblical characters. Still, Spencer is believable as a maternal and benevolent God, Israeli actor Alush is well cast as the culturally authentic Jesus who prefers "relationships" over "religion," and the Zen Holy Spirit is interesting (although audiences might feel a bit like Mack -- unable to discern exactly what her role is in the mystery of the trinity). And while The Shack definitely isn't laugh-out-loud film, there are moments of levity, and well as some that are purely heartbreaking. For those open to faith-based movies, this one is better than most.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages in The Shack. Are they just for Christians/people of faith? Why or why not? 

  • Some theologians and Christians disagree with the way the story/film depicts God and the Holy Spirit. How do you fee about it?

  • How does the movie convey the importance of communication? Why is that a key character strength?

  • How does the film depict the grieving process? Parents, talk to your kids about loss and how it can impact a person in many ways. Are there many different ways to grieve? Why?

Movie details

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