Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Oh really now?
One of my least favorite categories of film is religious ones for quite a few reasons…which I’ve gone over time and time again. To break it down to you real quick, they usually have a really poor budget, so literally everything looks and sounds bad. Then, it always has the cheesiest and unrealistic “sit down” moments where a main character talks about Jesus to another character with a really cheap soundtrack playing in the background. Movie critics know what I’m talking about when I say it’s sad. So was I really excited to see Heaven is for Real? No, not really, but it did make it to theaters, and it does have some recognizable faces in it, which at least points to the basic idea that it is better than your typical Christian film. Is that true? Yes, it is definitely better than your typical Christian film in regards to production value – which is great…but everything else is super cheesy, predictable, and completely misses one way to make it superbly better.
So basically, you got this young kid named Colton. Colton gets sick and eventually his whole appendix goes ka-blooey. Uh oh, spaghetti-o, because he needs to go to the hospital in critical condition. Well, wouldn’t you know it, his spirits jumps out of his body during the surgery, finds out things he couldn’t possibly know that was happening while he was under, and then he went to heaven to talk to Jesus. Anyways, when he returned it was basically up to his father to keep the faith and tell his son’s story…and obviously he sounds like a nutcase believing a kid’s active imagination. Throughout the film, he must remain strong and rebuild his faith through the innocence of his child’s experience. Based on a true story and book by the same name.
So let me start off by saying I’m going to be a monster. How, you may ask? Well, the kid was absolutely terrible at acting, which was unfortunate, given the focus time he was given. It was all about his true accounts of what he considered to be heaven, and how that vision became an inspiration to millions of people – thanks to the book. I couldn’t buy any of it because the acting was absolutely wretched. They played off the basic idea that this kid is cute and the way that he acts is innocent, which may reflect real life, but it comes off a certain way in film that just feels cheap and bleh.
I’m also going to say that there’s nothing wrong in having faith and believing in these things. I think the belief alone really does make a lot of people better for it. They have a level of confidence and kindness that others usually don’t, but you have other people that don’t believe it. So when they see a title like Heaven is for Real, you feel like this is the movie that provides definitive proof of the afterlife set forth in the Holy Bible. In all actuality, it’s one boy’s vision. A vision, by the way, that could have a number of explanations, which I so wish they delved into.
Part of being a Christian allows others to have the free will to decide for themselves what to believe in. The problem of Christian films is that they don’t provide those other options, and instead it becomes a huge in your face, one option film. That boy’s experience could be attributed to the paranormal society’s idea of “astral projection”…to the T. The way they explained it in the movie is step by step textbook astral projection – and his vision of heaven could be again paranormal. I won’t go into the details, but I’ve heard similar from different accounts where it wasn’t heaven, but it gave them impossible knowledge of things outside of their body and their life. I get that an explanation like that would throw everything off for a movie like this, but all I’m saying…is give the audience options. Knowing with Nic Cage provided an “aliens in the end of the world” or “angels during the rapture” option…could be either or. I loved that, because suddenly it works for so many other people…and these Christian films only work for one group of people – Christians. Why? Because it’s bloody predictable.
As far as they go, though, I think they did a pretty okay job with what they were going for. The production level is pretty good in comparison to other Christian movies, and of course you have recognizable faces thrown in there as well. Plus, not everyone is sick of hearing “based on a true story” yet, so those people would have a better experience believing in the events of the movie the way it was meant to be believed. I just can’t help but complain about the in-your-face moments. The guy is a preacher, so it is understood at least, but who wants to go to a movie to see something like 4 or 5 church services? Seriously.
In comparison to other Christian films like this, Heaven is for Real does an okay job with the production value and even the performance by Greg Kinnear specifically. They do an okay job getting their message across, and it will definitely make Christians love it.
It doesn’t reach anyone outside of Christianity because it is too in-your-face about everything. Not only that, but it is hard to accept when the main kid in the film is a horrible actor. Cute, sure, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that he sucks at acting. Also, the biggest problem this film had was not providing equal explanations from both sides for the audience to decide for themselves. Whenever movies do that – they have a higher probability of being widely loved by all audiences…instead of just being Christian here.
I haven’t heard one Christian dislike this movie…because they decided the moment they heard it was coming out that it would be good. They then decide to ignore the fact that as far as film goes, and what’s needed to make a good story for everyone, the movie failed. Instead, they say it had a good message that benefits their religion. Long story short…when deciding whether or not to see the movie – don’t listen to a Christian unless you yourself are one.