What happens after we die is such a huge debate question, that you should never bring it up unless you know the other person agrees with your beliefs. Wars have been fought, friendships destroyed, and relationships collapsed under this topic. Whether you believe in Heaven, Hell, or Valhalla is your own business, but Heaven is for Real tries to prove the existence of heaven through speculation, unquantified evidence and the adorableness of a little boy.
The Burpo family is your average, small town family. The father, Todd (Greg Kinnear), is the pastor of the local church, a volunteer firefighter, coach of the high school’s wrestling, and probably an organ donor. After a series of costly health problems (broken leg and kidney stones), their son Colton (Connor Corum) has a near-death experience after his appendix bursts. An operation and one prayer montage later, Colton recovers, but is telling stories about his visit to heaven. According to him, Jesus rides a rainbow horse, he chats with his long dead grandfather (who he never met), and an unnamed sister who died in utero. For some unexplained reason, the town itself is in an uproar because of Colton’s story, and his implications on the existence of heaven.
My biggest problem with the story (aside from how middle-of-the-road it was) was that I didn’t understand why people who blindly believe in the existence of God and heaven had such a problem with the implication that an innocent little boy had a religious experience. I can understand religious skeptics having a field day with disproving his account of heaven, but I didn’t understand why fellow believers were so polarized on his pretty basic view of heaven. Or even why the pastor (who is supposed to be the most faithful of his followers) would question his son’s experience. The only possible answer comes with my next problem with the film.
Faith is something you can have that’s not exclusive to religion, but it’s something that is heard to change, and this film very laxly tries to convince you that heaven is a real destination. It starts off asking some questions about faith and the afterlife, and even tries to incorporate/disprove a scientific skeptic. Its starts off with the promise of a deep, faith-questioning discussion, but you get a meandering, half-cocked trip through what you already know, only to arrive at the conclusion that blind-faith really is the only true answer. Greg Kinnear’s talent isn’t enough to save this film, though if it were to have a savior it would be Kinnear. Kinnear’s acting, and his rapport with the adorable Connor and Kelly Reilly as his wife Sonja Burpo, are the only things that keep this bloated, 100 minute long film (and its audience) going.
Heaven is for Real is a made-for-Easter film that also comes off as a made-for-television televangelist special. Greg Kinnear is the only redeemable part of this redemption-based film. Skeptics will remain skeptics, followers will continue to follow, and every person who doesn’t care either way will be mad they wasted their money on this. If you’re looking for a religious experience this Easter, you’re better off going to see Noah.
RATING: ★★(2/10 stars)
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