Heaven is for Real

Movie Information

The Story:  The story of a young boy who claims he went to heaven after nearly dying in surgery and his father’s (who is also a pastor) struggle to accept the tale. The Lowdown: A surprisingly theologically even-handed film that’s unfortunately dull, with no dramatic push behind it.
Genre: Faith-Based Drama
Director: Randall Wallace (Secretariat)
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Connor Corum, Kelly Reilly, Thomas Haden Church, Margo Martindale
Rated: PG




I expected the worst from Randall Wallace’s Heaven Is for Real. I’ve seen enough (too many, in fact) treacly, whitewashed religious tracts masquerading as cinema. I mean, this is a movie based on the “true story” of a young boy by the name of Colton Burpo (newcomer Connor Corum) claiming to have seen heaven during an appendectomy. You pretty much know what you’re going to get, from the cheesy, family-friendly humor to the noxious, swelling, saccharine score that sweats out of the speakers.




Despite being awash in such expected gooeyness, imagine my shock to find a surprisingly even-handed, theologically inquisitive little movie. Heaven Is for Real is, for the most part, really about father and pastor Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear, in a solid, none-too-taxing performance) coming to grips with what he truly believes. As a man of faith, even he has trouble buying into this story that young Burpo visited heaven, and not because of Colton’s more fantasticated claims (like Jesus riding around heaven on a horse), but because — even to him — heaven is a far-fetched idea. This makes for a film that’s more measured and less preachy than most Christian cinema.




This is all wonderful and unexpected, and you might, at this point, be asking yourself why Heaven Is for Real received such a meager star rating. Well, that’s because it’s boring. In the end, there’s just nothing interesting about the Burpos — not their money problems, not Todd breaking his leg playing softball and certainly not Colton going to heaven, which we only sort of see with some bad green screen work. There’s never any doubt, in a film called Heaven Is for Real, which side of the argument Pastor Burpo is going to fall on, and there’s certainly no dramatic energy in the meantime. These are the lives of solidly middle class people, living in middle America, and they seemingly have little to do other than listen to kids talk about heaven. I’m obviously less gullible than Todd, who apparently buys Colton’s claims that equestrian Jesus — complete with feathered hair — looks like a Bee Gee. All this excitement just feels goofy and makes the characters look even sillier. The movie is just steeped in aw shucks sincerity, and it’s all the more boring for it. Rated PG thematic material including some medical situations.

 Playing at Playing at Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grane, United Artists Beaucatcher.


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11 thoughts on “Heaven is for Real

  1. swilder

    Wow! This film got three times the praise you give most “faith based” works…now I KNOW I will enjoy it since I too am a boring, middle American.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Bear in mind, that is Justin’s review, not mine. I might not have given it three times the praise. At the same time, note, too, that it has a 52% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes vs. 13% for God’s Not Dead.

    • swilder

      Yes, I know you punished Justin with this one. I do think this film can have a broader appeal than the usual “faith based” efforts. And of course it made 2.5 times budget opening weekend so expect even more of these.

  3. T.rex

    A good fair review to what looks like a God awful movie. Justin, you were too nice on this one.

  4. Edwin Arnaudin

    It’s too safe a film to warrant ill will, other than for playing things too safe. My audience on Wednesday didn’t show any emotion and the one I saw leaving the theater on Good Friday was downright sedated. Perhaps that’s because it’s not nearly the manipulative tearjerker its trailer suggested. There aren’t really any big moments.

    Still, besides some nice aerial photography, it’s not that well-made a film, either.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Are you saying it doesn’t depict an all-white heaven with Marines? That strikes me as a pretty big moment.

    • T.rex

      Funny. I’m not sure I could buy any soundtrack with Belinda Carlyle.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Well, there’s always Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence (1939).

  7. Justin Souther

    The fact that it’s a step above a Lifetime movie, is dreadfully dull and has no convictions hurts its “crossover potential.”

  8. T.rex

    If you have a strong faith in something isn’t it better to see a film that questions it? Tear down your wall so you can make it stronger. The bottom line is money, the people behind this are after a certain demographic. Releasing it on Easter Weekend is proof.

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