Last night, I had the privilege of attending a screening of the upcoming movie, The Shack, based on the New York Times bestselling book of the same title. I read the book several years ago and loved it, but because of Hollywood’s track record with book-to-movie adaptations, you can guess why I was a bit apprehensive when I heard they were turning it into a movie. After the screening, though, I can honestly say that I was very pleasantly surprised!
The Shack follows the story of Mackenzie (Mack) Phillips and his journey with God through a strange but magical experience as he deals with an incredibly difficult time in his life. The story hits on themes of evil, forgiveness, loss, guilt, anger, and family that will quickly draw in readers/watchers and fill them with so much emotion. While you can certainly find more on the internet about the plot, I’m going to stop right here, because I feel that if I say anything else, it could ruin aspects of the story for you.
Instead of diving into the plot, I would like to share some thoughts about the movie and how they adapted it.
First of all, I think the cast selection was great! Sam Worthington plays an excellent Mack. He was able to capture all of the emotion needed for this role, but he never went overboard. He was actually able to help me see into the eyes of the character in new ways as he dealt with his struggles. His family and friends were also excellent, but hats off to the actors chosen to represent God. They were nearly perfect! And getting an actual Israeli Jew to play Jesus — brilliant! Why was this the first time I’ve seen this happen in Hollywood?
The movie’s producer, Gil Netter, also worked on movies like The Life of Pi, The Blind Side, and Marly and Me, which were also excellent films. We were told at the screening that he finally decided to take on The Shack as a gift for his wife, who loved the book. I’m so glad that he did, because he did an amazing job of bringing this story to the big screen. It never felt cheap or cheesy, which is so great for a Christian-themed movie! (Most of you know exactly what I mean.)
For those of you who read the book, be aware that there were some slight changes. However, I think almost all of them made sense, given that they were adapting a 256-page book to a 2-hour movie. For example, he had five children in the book but only three in the movie. That did not bother me, because it allowed them to tighten up the story for movie-form. Similarly, things happen a bit faster in the movie, but that also made sense to me.
There are a few things they left out or barely glossed over, though. For example, if you have read the book, you may want to know that the very end was left out of the movie. I’m not really sure why this was the case, but maybe they just had to fit it in a specific time-frame. In the end, though, neither my wife nor I was ever left thinking, “I can’t believe they change that!” or “Why in the world did they cut that part?”
I do want to issue a slight warning. Make sure you bring the tissues, because there are several incredibly moving scenes! I do not cry much when it comes to sad things, which this move definitely has, but God often tugs at my heart when I experience something that is very moving. This movie is full of those moments, so be prepared.
The theater was filled with other ministry leaders, all watching The Shack ahead of its March 3 release to get our feedback but also to encourage us to use the movie in our ministry. As I said earlier, I was very apprehensive about this movie for many reasons, but one of my biggest worries was that it would be corny and cheap. The Shack is anything but that, and I look forward to inviting students and families to watch it and discuss the themes together. I’m still brainstorming exactly how we will use it in our ministry, but rest assured, we will use it. If you’re interested in finding out more, there are several resources — ranging from renting out a theater to Bible studies to sermon ideas — all available to help ministry leaders on the following websites:
I’ll close with this quote from my wife, which I think captures our thoughts beautifully:
I loved the book, and the movie did not disappoint. It shattered my expectations of how an imaginative and thought-provoking book could be adapted for the big screen. It will stir up the full spectrum of emotions, so bring the tissues!
Mark your calendars. Buy your tickets. Spread the word. Read the book. Watch the movie. The Shack will not disappoint.
Want to purchase The Shack book?
Note: Yes, this story is fictional, so make sure to treat it as such. You will probably not agree with everything it says. But if you open up your mind a bit, you will most likely learn to see God a bit differently, just as I did, and in the end, fall in love with Him even more.