'Heaven Is For Real' review: It won't make you a believer

Connor Corum and Greg Kinnear star in 'Heaven Is For Real.'

Connor Corum and Greg Kinnear star in 'Heaven Is For Real.'

Rating

1 Stars1/5

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:52 PM ET

Heaven Is For Real is the story of a child's near-death experience and consequent visions of the afterlife.

How that child's descriptions of heaven affected his family and his community were captured in a 2010 book; the book has been on bestseller lists for 176 straight weeks, and the release of this film has put Heaven Is For Real back at #1.

The film introduces Colton Burpo (newcomer Connor Corum), a little boy almost four years old. His father, Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear) is a local pastor, and their rural community is not affluent. Thomas Haden Church plays a banker in the movie and Margo Martindale turns up as a pillar of the community. Colton's mom is played by Kelly Reilly.

Colton requires emergency surgery. The prayers of the community are offered for his return to health. After what some see as a miraculous recovery, Colton begins to describe what happened to him while he hovered between life and death: He went to heaven and met Jesus. Colton describes meeting John the Baptist, too, his own great-grandfather, angels and a sibling his mother miscarried.

Colton's stories about visiting heaven bring out the believer in some and the skeptic in others, but have a profound effect on his father, who is forced to consider that heaven could be more than just an abstract idea.

It's no secret that Heaven Is For Real is a movie created for a specific audience. Those outside that audience may find the movie has a simplistic message with little intellectual or spiritual appeal. Furthermore, an attentive city slicker will have some serious problems with a few of the picture's implied social and political messages.

But never mind all that. The real problem with Heaven Is For Real is the storytelling, which is flat and awkward. Despite affecting performances from Kinnear and Martindale, the film fails to deliver highs or lows and the source of the conflict is murky. There is emotional manipulation at work here, and worse yet, you can see the puppet master pulling the strings.

Heaven Is For Real is bookended with references to another child who, like Colton Burpo, has had visions of an afterlife. That all feels extraneous; pictures of the real Burpo family at the end of the movie are another distraction. The camera loves the natural beauty of the sleepy Nebraska countryside, but falters when it comes to stoking the imagination with representations of anything other-worldly. Visually, the default position here is pure St. Joseph's Baltimore Catechism, circa 1958.

Nonetheless, there is an audience for Heaven Is For Real. That should ensure the film is greeted with open arms and wallets as Easter approaches.

Twitter: @LizBraunSun

liz.braun@sunmedia.ca

 


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