Heaven Is For Real (Sony Pictures)
Rated PG for thematic material including some medical situations.
Starring Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Thomas Haden Church, Connor Corum, Lane Styles, Margo Martindale, Jacob Vargas, Thanya Romero, Danso Gordon, Rob Moran, Nancy Sorel, Darcy Fehr.
Written by Chris Parker and Randall Wallace, based on the book "Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back" by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent.
Directed by Randall Wallace.
I’m probably going to “Heck” for saying this, but I’m not a huge fan of religion-based movies. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a devout believer in God and Jesus Christ, and I like some movies that depict both. The trouble for me is – whenever I see Heaven and its hosts on the big screen, I always feel a little manipulated by the sights, sounds and cinematic tricks that often play on my emotions and present a proxy to faith. That concept (faith) does not come with a soundtrack, clever edits or attractive millionaire narcissists (actors) telling me how to feel. For me, faith is a testimony of things not seen or heard, after study and prayer. I’m not suggesting that films about God are necessarily bad – I submit that such movies are movies first, and perhaps not an optimal basis for faith. Heaven Is For Real is the film adaptation of a book written by a Midwest preacher whose preschool son claims he visited Heaven while undergoing life-threatening operation. It is a story that may challenge the faith of many or reinforce what many already believe.
Greg Kinnear plays the real-life Todd Burpo, a working man and preacher for a Christian church in Nebraska. After his son Colton (Connor Corum) ends up in emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix, the little boy has a vision of Heaven, and is hosted by Jesus himself. Colton’s vision includes Jesus’ rainbow colored horse, singing angels, and a few dead relatives the little boy never met.
After Colton shares details of his vision with Todd, the preacher struggles with his own faith pertaining to his congregation and others who are not receptive to the idea of the little boy’s image of the hereafter. His wife Sonja (Kelly Reilly) has even greater doubts, and as word about Colton spreads, it threatens Todd’s standing in the church and community.
Heaven Is For Real is a beautiful movie about a very beautiful concept, but I have a few qualms about it. First, there’s the clumsy script that abandons subtlety at times and goes straight for the expository jugular. Second is the slow pacing of the movie that ends in a very abrupt place. Third is the risky idea that any movie can accurately depict a concept like Heaven - which I think ought to accepted on faith, instead of the idea (as the book and film’s title suggest) that such a thing ought to be presented as a statement of fact.
So, if you are inclined to see Heaven Is For Real, I suggest evaluating what you already believe before buying a ticket. You might enjoy a little slice of one person’s Heaven – and avoid joining a choir getting another sermon from the preacher.