A decade after the book was published, the long-awaited Hollywood adaptation of The Shack has been released in theaters. So should you see it?
Hey, you’ll need to make up your own mind. Don’t expect me to tell you how to spend your movie dollars. All I want to do here is give you the best and worst reasons to see (or not see) it. Confused? Don’t be: all shall be clear soon.
Best Reason Not to See The Shack
Let’s start with the best reason not to see the movie. Here it is: the film is getting terrible reviews from professional critics. At Rotten Tomatoes it currently has an abysmal rating of 17%. That’s good enough reason for me to wait, even as I take into account the general hostility among mainstream critics toward Christian-themed films.
For myself, I also take into account the testimony of trusted friends. One friend of mine attended a Wednesday night preview, and while he enjoyed the book, by contrast, he found the film flat, lifeless, and perfunctory. That’s hardly ringing praise!
Best Reason to See The Shack
Having said that, my friend also noted that by and large the audience of Christians who had been invited to the screening seemed to enjoy the film. And that is borne out by Rotten Tomatoes as well. As of this writing, 5669 people have posted user ratings with an average score of 4.3/5 resulting in the statistic that 87% like the film. (By contrast, the user rating at IMDB is currently a poor 5.7 based on 134 votes. But that will change wildly in the coming days as the film moves into wide release.)
I guess the lesson is this: if you liked the book and you really want to see the movie, there’s a good chance you’ll like it. To put it another way, if you like evangelical Christian films like God’s not Dead and Courageous and War Room, then you’ll probably enjoy The Shack as well.
So there you have the best reason to see and not to see The Shack.
Worst Reason Not to See The Shack
Now let’s turn to the worst reason not to see The Shack. (I’ll skip the worst reason to see the film.) That reason is the one Tim Challies gives for not seeing it: idolatry. In an article titled “Why I Won’t Be Seeing (or Reviewing) The Shack Movie” he writes:
“I am far more sure that watching and reviewing The Shack would be an unwise and even sinful spiritual decision.”
Unwise I get, but sinful? Tim, tell me more! Fortunately, he does:
“My foremost concern with The Shack—the one that will keep me from seeing it even for purposes of review—is its visual representation of God. To watch The Shack is to watch human actors play the roles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I take this to be a clear, serious violation of the second commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6). I will not see the film, even to review it, because I will not and cannot watch humans pretend to be God.”
Oh dear, I guess we’ll need to cancel the youth group screening of Bruce Almighty and that classic Simpsons episode where Homer meets God. But what can we show instead?
I know, let’s show The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe! Wait, what’s that? Aslan represents Jesus? Oh darn, so that’s idolatry too?
Fine, how about The Jesus Film? That’s relatively safe, isn’t it? Oh right, that also has Jesus played by actor Brian Deacon … a human “pretending” to be God.
Whatever. Let’s just show Transformers: Age of Extinction. Granted, Transformers is a sin against good taste, but at least that’s better than idolatry: as long as Optimus Prime doesn’t represent God we should be okay.