Overview: A Nebraska pastor struggles for answers after his son claims he visited heaven during an emergency surgery. Sony Pictures Entertainment, rated PG, 100 minutes, 2014
Father and Son: The best scenes in Heaven is for Real are when Colton (Connor Corum) is interacting with his father, Tony Burpo (Greg Kinnear). After Colton recovers from his surgery and begins to relay some of his experiences in heaven, the roles of father and son begin to reverse. Pastor Burpo begins to wrestle with his faith as he attempts to answer questions from both believers and doubters, who are all skeptical of his son’s story. Colton answers questions with a matter of fact self-assurance that only children seem to possess. Connor Corum is the highlight of this movie, a refreshing reminder of how innocent and wise children can be at the same time (although his smirks and occasional torture of his older sister help remind us he’s still a normal four year old boy). Greg Kinnear is solid, yet somewhat underwhelming as Tony Burpo, the boy’s father and author of the source material for this film. The basis of this story revolves around his struggle to really come to terms with what he believes, and I can’t help but want more out of him. If you are expecting a performance along the lines of Simon Bishop from As Good As it Gets you will be left disappointed.
Bound to be Biased: Unlike Noah, Hollywood’s other most recent dip into the Biblically-inspired movie genre, Heaven is for Real doesn’t have the luxury of impressive visuals, high action sequences, or compelling performances to please those who aren’t watching because they believe in the story itself. The level of satisfaction viewers come away with after seeing Heaven is for Real is bound to be in direct correlation to how aligned their beliefs are with the message the movie is sending. It’s not preachy or commanding, but it’s a Christian movie that sends a very Christian message. As someone whose beliefs are aligned with the intent behind the film, the fact that it elicited an emotional response from me on several occasions was enough for me to walk out of the theater with a satisfied smile on my face. However, the mediocrity of many other aspects of the film results in a movie that is lacking in appeal to general audiences.
One Last Thing: One of the movies major mistake lies in its attempt to show parts of Colton’s trip to heaven. This is a story about a family, community, and the difficulties of keeping the faith regardless of what you see. The movie should have asked for our faith by focusing on Colton relaying his experience rather than attempting to show it to us.