Heaven Is for Real

Film Title: Heaven Is for Real

Director: Randall Wallace

Starring: Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Jacob Vargas, Nancy Sorel

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 99 min

Fri, Jun 13, 2014, 00:00


What in the almighty Kong is this? Until now, Irish film patrons have been spared most of Hollywood’s “faith films”. And we were happier for having missed out on a genre defined by that uniquely American marriage of fundamentalism and patriotism, of Jesus and Stars & Stripes. These things seldom travel well (or at all) outside the flyover states.

We suspect that Heaven Is for Real has been earmarked for grander things due to the personnel attached. The film features People You Have Actually Heard Of, including Kelly Reilly, Greg Kinnear and Thomas Haden Church. It’s directed by Randall Wallace, the writer behind Braveheart. And still it comes off like a second-rate episode of Highway to Heaven or Touched by an Angel.

It’s not just that the film is black propaganda: where would cinema be without the ideologically suspect Olympia or pro-military entertainments such as Lone Survivor? No, it’s just that Heaven Is for Real is really bad at being a faith film.

Adapted from a 2010 best-selling Christian memoir by Nebraskan preacher Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent, the movie opens with Kinnear’s nice-guy minister running between his duties on the pulpit, duties as a firefighter and duties as a saintly family man.

Life changes (slightly) when Colton, his four-year-old son, goes to the titular afterworld during a surgical procedure. Returning from the hitherto undiscovered country, Colton talks of meeting a blue-green-eyed Jesus, dead relatives and a rainbow-coloured horse.

The concerned community respond in the strongest possible terms: they call a meeting of the church board. A random psychologist pops up with a secular explanation, one that is swiftly dismissed.

But Colton didn’t die during surgery. So even by its own internal logic, Heaven Is for Real is not, well, real. More confusingly, our hero’s Christian flock appear to take offence at his son’s Christian view of heaven, as if secretly they all expected Valhalla and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Perhaps it’s the liberal media bias talking, but we’re pretty sure than there’s nothing in Christian doctrine that forbids plotting and believable dialogue. Heaven Is for Real boasts neither.

Sadly, we never do get to see Jesus’s rainbow pony during the strikingly unimaginative and hilariously underfunded depictions of the hereafter.