Papa god and the buddy Christ

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THE SHACK ★★

Di­rected by Stuart Hazel­dine. Star­ring Sam Wor­thing­ton, Oc­tavia Spencer, Avra­ham Aviv Alush, Radha Mitchell, Alice Braga, Gra­ham Greene, Tim McGraw, Su­mire, Alice Braga. Cert 12A, gen re­lease, 132mins

The Shack, a faith-themed novel by Cana­dian au­thor Wil­liam P Young, was self-pub­lished in 2007. It sub­se­quently spent 18 months at the top of the New York Times best­seller list and shifted more than 10 mil­lion copies, spawn­ing ad­di­tional self-help books, and now a ma­jor mo­tion pic­ture.

Not every­one is a true be­liever. Many the­olo­gians have taken is­sue with the film’s the­ol­ogy as ei­ther “prob­lem­atic” or down­right “hereti­cal”. Other com­men­ta­tors have been dis­com­fited by the film’s de­pic­tion of God as Oc­tavia Spencer and the Holy Spirit as Ja­panese su­per­model Su­mire.

While the film’s in­tro­duc­tion of a Holy Qu­a­ter­nity – say hello to Wis­dom (Alice Braga) – did seem novel, the­ol­ogy and colour-blind cast­ing are the least of this ma­nip­u­la­tive movie’s prob­lems.

Sam Wor­thing­ton keeps re­vert­ing to his Aus­tralian ac­cent as Macken­zie Phillips, an Amer­i­can heart­lands fam­ily man whose faith is ques­tioned when his youngest daugh­ter, Missy, meets a tragic fate at the hands of a vi­o­lent pae­dophile. When Mack re­ceives a mys­te­ri­ous let­ter from “Papa” (his wife’s nick­name for God), invit­ing him to the shack where he last saw his daugh­ter’s blood­ied clothes, he takes a gun just to be on the safe side.

Once there, how­ever, he en­coun­ters cool car­pen­ter dude Je­sus (Avra­ham Aviv Alush), who leads Mack to a well-ap­pointed cabin in par­adise, where Papa (Spencer) bakes pies, and the Holy Spirit gar­dens. Later Papa trans­forms into the vet­eran Na­tive Amer­i­can ac­tor Gra­ham Greene ( Twi­light), adding Mor­mon top-notes to an al­ready mud­dled prayer ther­apy ses­sion. And then they talk. For hours. Mack rages against God for al­low­ing the Heaven’s above: Sam Wor­thing­ton in The Shack death of his daugh­ter, un­til he is bom­barded into sub­mis­sion by mind-body-soul-speak. As are we.

This sce­nario is no more im­prob­a­ble than any­thing in

Won­der Woman, but, de­spite a great turn by Spencer and pretty cin­e­matog­ra­phy, it re­fuses to con­form to any­thing like three acts. There is, more­over, some­thing dis­com­bob­u­lat­ing about the no­tion that the suf­fer­ing hero needs to let by­gones be by­gones.

Per­haps there are Chris­tians who will ap­pre­ci­ate The

Shack’s Oprah­fied univer­sal heaven, wherein no bad deed goes pun­ished. But it made us pine for the Book of Job God to spite­fully hurl leviathans and be­he­moths. TARA BRADY

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