Starring: Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Thomas Haden Church, Connor Corum, Margo Martindale
Directed by: Randall Wallace
Written by: Randall Wallace, Chris Parker
Rating: PG (US) Running Time: 1 hr 39 min
Are movies like wine? As in, is it a great movie if you personally think it’s good? In 2013 I thought Gravity was the best movie I’d seen in years, and was shocked and even weirdly angry when friends didn’t feel the same way. That’s how passionately I fell for that experience, because that film made a connection to multiple interests of mine. Science fiction, space exploration and a deeply moving personal journey for its protagonist.
In the same way I can understand why Heaven is for Real has become so successful, because it unapologetically speaks to a very select audience. That being those of the Christian faith in the United States with a devout belief in God, Jesus, and the sense of community and charity that it brings to their lives.
But is Heaven is for Real any good?
For me personally, no, because it doesn’t speak to me, and never pretended to. To the many people who have helped this film stay in the US box office top 10 for the last couple of months, I would guess this is their Gravity. For me, I found the film’s pace a little lazy, and it felt like a Lifetime channel TV movie. At times it seemed like this film was trying show the audience how American Christians like to picture themselves. Painting a picture of perfect selfless people leaning on each other during tough economic and emotional times. That’s not to say these people don’t exist, I just thought this vision of perfection was laid on a little too think, and my more cynical side wasn’t buying it.
So while the theme and message of this movie didn’t speak to me personally, there were some elements of this movie I did enjoy. I thought Greg Kinnear and Kelly Reilly were superb in this film, and supporting performances from Thomas Haden Church and Margo Martindale were also good.
Are movies like wine? For me, Heaven is for Real is going to taste like Charles Shaw’s Two Buck Chuck, but if you like it, who am I to say you’re wrong.
If you’re anything other than the films target audience, you are not likely going to enjoy this. Atheists – don’t even bother! If you are a Christian looking for some family friendly entertainment, or simply enjoy near death experience stories, then you’ll likely enjoy this. This film wears its heart on its proverbial sleeve and can get a little melodramatic for my taste, but if that’s your thing, then enjoy.
The visions of heaven and the photography in around the town of Imperial Nebraska are actually very nicely shot, so a matinée showing is recommended. At home a HD viewing on a nice big TV will bring out the best in this film.
Best Moment: << spoiler >>
I couldn’t help but be moved when Colton (Connor Corum) talks about meeting his sister in heaven. A sister he had never met because she was miscarried. Sonja Burpo’s (Kelly Reilly) reaction to this notion that her unborn child existed in heaven is powerful and beautifully performed by Kelly Reilly.