Star Rating:

Heaven Is For Real

Director: Randall Wallace

Actors: Kelly Reilly, Thomas Haden Church, Greg Kinnear

Release Date: Saturday 30th November 2013

Genre(s): Drama

Running time: 99 minutes

It’s easy to snigger. In a world this cynical and tired the notion that heaven is bona fide, a concept this film takes on with gusto, is ripe for snorts and finger-pointing and ‘get hims’. The truth of it, however, is take religious beliefs, or lack thereof, out of the equation and Heaven Is For Real is still a poor movie.

Based on a true story, Greg Kinnear plays Todd Burpo, a pastor for a small Nebraskan community, the kind of town that likes its floral dresses, church fetes, and big tractors. A stand-up guy, Kinnear doubles and triples up as basketball coach and voluntary fireman when not helping the dying through their difficulties. Todd remains stoic when a series of Job-like tragedies beset his family, but it’s when his son Colton (Connor Corum) claims to have visited heaven whilst unconscious on an operating table that Todd’s faith, oddly, is rocked. Conor’s visions begin to upset the community too...

Randall Wallace, who turns to bigging up God like he bigged up killing lots and lots of folk in his ‘War, It’s Faaaaantastic!’ dramas Pearl Harbour and We Were Soldiers, at least gives both sides of the debate air time. Kinnear visits a sceptic (Nancy Sorel) to explain his son’s vision away and she’s given room to voice her opinion, as is Margo Martindale’s church-goer who has something against the idea of heaven and hell (but it’s unclear what exactly). But the debate reaches the titular conclusion when Kinnear finally exclaims, "What if you have an encounter that’s so beyond your own experience it’s irrational? What then?" The movie decides that the only answer must be God and heaven.

Incidentally, the representation of heaven is so beyond naff and lacks any kind of imagination that it needs a new word invented just for it. How about flumninin? The heaven scenes here are flumninin.

Whatever your opinion might be it’s still hard to grasp why a pastor’s son’s visions of heaven, a heaven that reinforces the teachings of the church, would cause consternations in the community. And why a father’s faith, who is a pastor remember, is suddenly rocked by this revelation. If it was a case of being unsure of what to do when finally presented with something you’ve always wanted that would be something, but Randall Wallace doesn’t seem interested in tackling anything of note.

The likeable Kinnear is as always very watchable and he works overtime in the hope you don’t realise Corum isn’t up to it.