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Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer in “The Shack”


Watching Stuart Hazeldine’s adaptation of William P. Young’s novel about Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington), a loving husband and father caught in a downward spiral after the kidnapping and murder of his young daughter (Amélia Eve), I couldn’t help wishing that Hazeldine (“Exam”) and screenwriters John Fusco, Andrew Lanham, and Destin Cretton had chosen to embrace the fantastic elements of the premise a bit more. When Mack receives a letter in his mailbox from “Papa,” his wife (Radha Mitchell) and daughter’s name for God, he heads off on a journey to the titular location, where he encounters God (Octavia Spencer), Jesus (Avraham Aviv Alush), and the Holy Spirit (Sumire Matsubara) in a pleasant, but uninspired weekend retreat. “The Shack” could have used a touch of the surreal on display in “What Dreams May Come.”