“THE SHACK”: MAYBE. If you’re looking for a faith-minded film, this is better than most of the genre like.
This weekend brings us the Christian-themed movie “The Shack,” based on the huge bestseller by William P. Young, Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings.

Before we get into these, I want to give a plug to a new season of CNN’s series “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery.” The first season proved a hit last year by focusing on well-known Pastors, theologians, and scholars, examined famous religious artifacts, and brought to life the places and people from the Bible touched by Jesus and the Gospel.

The new season explores such topics as the childhood home of Jesus, the tomb of King Herod, the bones of St. Peter, relics believed to shed truth about Doubting Thomas, the Pilate Stone, and the tomb of Lazarus. It premieres Sunday at 9 pm ET/PT and 8 p.m. CST, the link to the season 2 trailer can be seen here.

Meanwhile, “The Shack” follows the story of a man named Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington), whom an opening flashback was severely abused as a child by his father, a Protestant church elder who was alcoholic. This part of his story and much of the film is told through a voiceover narration by his friend Willie (Tim McGraw), and after some poignant and powerful opening moments, the film jumps to Mack’s adult life as a father with a churchgoing family.

But deep down, Mack feels distant from God due to his unresolved childhood trauma with his father, and when his youngest daughter is kidnapped and later found dead while on a family camping trip, Mack is even more despondent and angry with God. He receives a strange note in the mail one day during snow season, saying it came from “Papa” – which was his dead daughter’s favorite name for God – and inviting him to come visit the shack where his daughter’s body was found.

At first, Mack thinks the note is a sick joke, but he grabs a gun for safety and heads out to the woods to find out what’s happening. At first the shack is old and decrepit, but soon he encounters a young, Middle Eastern-looking man (Abraham Aviv Alush) who convinces him to come in.

There, Mack finds that the man is sharing the shack with a middle-aged black woman (Octavia Spenser) who says she’s the “Papa” who wrote the note, and a woman (Sumire Matsubara) who calls herself Sarayu. It turns out that these three are supposed to be physical incarnations of the Holy Trinity, with Papa as God the Father, the Middle Eastern guy as Jesus and Sarayu as the Holy Spirit.

The reason they’re in these human forms is that they are presenting themselves to Mack in a way that he can process easily, since he’s afraid of father figures. The rest of the movie follows his long emotional journey through the visit with the three mysterious figures as they help him handle his grief and answer his questions about life, death and existence in a way that helps him heal emotionally and spiritually.

Some might see this concept as odd, but it’s clear that the makers of “The Shack” have good intentions and the movie does handle some of life’s biggest questions in a positive, Christian light. The book it’s based on was embraced by millions of Christians as well.

The look of “The Shack,” which is directed by Stuart Hazeldine, is remarkable, with lush cinematography and impressive locations and effects. The performances are touching and top-notch as well. The one big downside is that, at 132 minutes, the movie could have been about a half hour shorter and been more effective.

Beautifully made with strong performances, “The Shack” is a movie that gives answers to life’s toughest questions. It’s one of the best films in the recent wave of the Christian genre.