90 Minutes in Heaven would be more aptly described as 121 minutes in a purgatory of boredom; hell would be an inaccurate analogy if only because it would imply that something interesting was taking place. If you’ve ever wanted to watch Hayden Christensen mumbling in a bed for over two hours, your inexplicable prayers have been answered. All others need not apply. Even those who gravitate to faith-based media strictly in the interest of affirming their worldview will have difficulty weathering the narrative inertia of this film. The greatest sin of 90 Minutes is unquestionably its glacial pacing, and there is no trace of hyperbole when I state unequivocally that this is the most boring film I have seen all year. For the sake of the six-plus million people who have allegedly bought the autobiography on which 90 is based, I sincerely hope the book didn’t drag the way the film does.
Had the story moved more briskly, the picture still would’ve been weighed down by its stars’ wooden performances. Suffering PTSD after a near-fatal car crash, Pastor Don Piper (Hayden Christensen and his mustache) begins to neglect wife Eva (Kate Bosworth) before revealing to her in the last 15 minutes of the movie that his despondency stems not from his injuries but from his perceived expulsion from Heaven. This might sound promising, but Bosworth is here because she’s married to the director and Christensen because he’s probably not being offered much work these days, and accordingly neither seems particularly engaged. While Bosworth vacillates between broad overacting and vacant stares, the preponderance of screen-time is dedicated to Christensen’s relentless hamming. A more honest title for the film would have been 90 Variations on Grimacing, and after the first hour of listening to him whine in a ridiculously affected Texas accent, I began to wonder if he might actually be playing his scenes for comedy. This theory failed to hold up under scrutiny, since it presupposes both acting ability and a sense of humor on Christensen’s part. Dwight Yoakam at least seems to be enjoying his own private joke, wrenching what little fun he can out of his two scenes as an ambulance-chasing lawyer, but the most reliable comic relief remains the dead caterpillar on Christensen’s upper lip. Photographs of the real-life Pipers under the credits prove that representational verisimilitude was completely abandoned by the casting director, making adherence to this particular aspect of the character’s appearance all the more perplexing.
To blame the film’s failings on its cast, however, would be to understate the egregious errors in judgment perpetrated by writer-director Michael Polish. While the production values are solid, Polish’s direction is brutally lacking in style and his script features some of the most unnatural dialogue ever to have issued from Hayden Christensen’s mouth (a dubious, but amazing, distinction for someone who has spoken George Lucas lines). Persistent and superfluous voice-over narration is abused in a futile attempt to flesh out Pastor Piper’s character, but does nothing to advance the plot — a perennial hallmark of lazy screenwriting. This film has three separate tacked-on endings. Yet despite all these shortcomings, Polish’s most bizarre decision is the inclusion of McDonald’s product placements so pervasive that these characters seem to inhabit a world in which no one ever eats or even mentions any other type of food. I don’t have an accurate count, but I doubt Christianity is brought up as often as the unholy trinity of McDonald’s burgers, shakes and fries.
Heaven is glimpsed exactly twice in all 121 minutes of 90 Minutes, but it gets enough real estate to incorporate literally every visual cliche associated with the concept. However, when the “pearlescent gates” finally make their appearance, I had honestly begun to expect the golden arches instead. Despite the apparent sincerity of cast and crew, a reasonable budget bolstered by whoever sold their soul to Mayor McCheese, and a large built-in audience familiar with the source material, 90 Minutes in Heaven is a painfully turgid two hours unlikely to attain the success enjoyed by other films of its ilk. To misappropriate a line from Milton, better to reign in Hell than sit through Heaven. Rated PG-13 for intense accident and injury images