Entertainment » Movies

Heaven Is for Real

by Michael  Cox
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Sunday Aug 24, 2014
Heaven Is for Real

Will we ever be able to call a movie Capra-esque again, or are heartwarming films, like "It's a Wonderful Life," a thing of the past? Has America lost its naivety to a desperately media-literate audience that is now congenitally jaded?

The premise of "Heaven is for Real" sings with the promise of bringing hope and magic back to the movies. After a near-death experience, a small boy recounts his experiences in heaven, where he recalls talking with Jesus. His loving father, a pastor named Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear), must confront the protestations of his wife and his congregation to support his son's statements.

Based on a best-selling book (no surprise there), "Heaven is for Real" touts itself as a "true story." It could be a beautiful story if it were more about the father/son relationship or embracing faith when you have everything to lose in the process (think of "Field of Dreams"). But how faith-inspiring is it to know that Burpo's take-away was not persecution, but a best-selling book and a feature film?

Whereas it's charming and sweet to watch a little child tell you he's been to heaven and hung out with Jesus, it is extremely irritating to watch wealthy, privileged, white men tell you all about what heaven and Jesus look like.

The problem with this film is mostly in its particulars. The audience isn't required to have faith or support Burpo's decision to stand behind his son, because the movie comes complete with cheesy scenes in which Conner walks hand in hand with Jesus, chatting and looking at winged-things among the fluffy clouds. People of faith around the world get a surprise: Not only is heaven absolutely for real, it also looks and sounds a specific way. In addition, four-year-old Colton (Connor Corum) is quick to note that everyone else's artistic rendition of heaven is wrong, saying, "That's not what it really looks like."

The Blu-ray picture and sound are lovely, though the art direction is a maddeningly middle-class, honky version of heaven, complete with Aryan angels and a blue-green eyed Jesus. Kinnear has all the heartfelt sentimentality that won him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in "As Good as it Gets," sans the humor. That goes double for Thomas Haden Church, whose nomination was also encouraged by a good screenplay and director ("Sideways").

Special features include six deleted scenes and three featurettes, including "The Making of 'Heaven is for Real,' " "Colton Goes to Heaven" and "Creating Heaven," but avoid watching these if you want to enjoy the movie. Whereas it's charming and sweet to watch a little child tell you he's been to heaven and hung out with Jesus, it is extremely irritating to watch wealthy, privileged, white men tell you all about what heaven and Jesus look like.


"Heaven is for Real"
Blu-ray
99 minutes
Rated PG for thematic material and some medical situations
$40.99
www.sonypictures.com

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