Thursday, August 21, 2014

Heaven Is For Real Review

Heaven Is For Real Review

The Burpo family has really been getting traction from their book recently. A book about four-year-old Colton who was taken to the hospital due to a terrible illness (at least, that is what the movie says it was, I have never read the book). The doctors all kept telling Colton’s parents that he would not make it through the night and that Colton would be lucky if he did not die. The parents, Todd and Sonja, prayed for Colton to live, Todd went as far as to yell at God (not bad for a local preacher) and to their astonishment, Colton survived. Not only did Colton survive he had an apparent experience in Heaven and was discussed how he saw Angels, Jesus, God and relatives his family never told him about. Todd was so inspired by Colton’s tale that he wrote a book about Colton’s journey into Heaven and it became a New York Times bestseller and now a major motion picture.

I personally think the Burpo family is full of it, but I still curious to see the movie. I was curious to see what type of tone and style the film would take.  Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Thomas Haden Church and Margo Martindale are all actors I like and respect and despite my personal feelings about the story, I figured these actors saw something in the script special in the script and that I should check it out. I wanted to see if the film could challenge or confirm my beliefs, and hopefully give me something to debate about over the next few days or even weeks. That is what I hoped for when I sat down to watch this and that isn’t quite what I got.

Don’t let the star-power of this movie fool you. “Heaven is For Real” is not a movie out to enlighten, it is not out to debate with you, and it is definitely not out to entertain you. “Heaven is For Real” is Christian propaganda at the highest order, with few redeeming qualities. It is a laundry list of Christian movie cliché’s and each one tries to shove an agenda down your throat. Basically, it is a movie that pretty much says, “If you don’t believe this kid, you are wrong and ignorant.” I don’t know if that is how Todd Burpo wrote the book, but the way the film plays out feels like an enormous gospel service, with all sorts of odd choices made throughout. This movie does exactly what these movies usually do. There are several moments of family hardship, then Colton goes to the hospital, then he wakes up and starts talking about Heaven, there are bullies, there is denial, there is church gossip and it all leads to big happy ending. It’s all so ordinary and pedestrian that I didn’t care about the plot or the characters. Not only that, but the big villain of the movie is a person with science-based beliefs and they paint this character as evil. This is a movie that hates science and detests other beliefs and faiths. Director Randall Wallace could not have made that any clearer.

I can tell that Kinnear, Reilly, Church and Martindale try really hard to make this count and their performances range from pretty good to mediocre. Kinnear seems to be the only one trying to give this movie a pulse. Kinnear comes off like your typical, everyman and it is hard not to follow him through this journey. He takes this script seriously and I believe the audience would be drawn to his performance. Church and Martindale are not bad, they are just not given much to do except spout out typical clichéd dialogue. Reilly is also good and she is trying hard, but she’s a little too pretty for this role. I flat out couldn’t stand Connor Corum as Colton. The moment he wakes up and starts talking about Heaven, he acts and feels like he’s in a horror movie. He is a big, bleak blank in this movie. No piece of dialogue he has convinces me that this story is based on something true. Everything is so vague and so like other movies like this that it is hard to take anything in the film seriously and it is an odd choice to have Colton feel like Damien from “The Omen.”

I could have had more respect for this film and even believed more in this film if it tried for a better debate. I wish the film tried to convince me harder that this boy’s story is true. I wish the movie presented evidence that would have me shell-shocked with the movie and had me debating the possibilities it presented. But that is not what “Heaven is For Real” wanted to do, it wanted to be an overblown Sunday school class, it wanted to throw all of its ideas at you and make you feel silly for disagreeing. To put it bluntly, this is everything I hoped this film wouldn’t be and it sadly turned out to be. After so many people saying that they have seen Jesus or God or an Angel, I can't find any reason to why this boy's story is more precious to everyone else's. Judging from this movie, I can see why Todd Burpo is puzzled by the fact that not everybody believes his son’s story. Also, judging from this movie, it seems everything surrounding this story is extra-fishy and not genuine.

FINAL GRADE: D

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