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'Heaven Is for Real' is a bad movie with good intentions

Whose bright idea was it to make a church congregation recoil at the idea of heaven being real? Hollywood’s reticence to meet the demands of the religious market stems from their inability to understand it.
Jim Bennett, Deseret News Modified: May 8, 2014 at 2:29 pm •  Published: May 9, 2014
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I saw “Heaven Is for Real,” and I didn’t like it.

No, that’s not entirely true. I liked the fact that an overtly religious film was getting a wide release. I liked Greg Kinnear — it’s almost impossible not to like Greg Kinnear — and I thought all the actors were top-notch, especially the children. It’s very difficult to coax a credible performance out of a young child when dealing with such sentimental subject matter, but the director made it work. Watching young actor Connor Corum belt out “We Will Rock You” while sitting in his car seat is almost worth the price of admission.

The key word there is “almost.”

I found the rest of the movie to be extremely frustrating, so a few cute moments weren’t enough to save it. I mean, come on — whose bright idea was it to make a church congregation recoil at the idea of heaven being real?

Todd Burpo, Greg Kinnear’s character, has a 4-year-old son named Colton who goes to heaven during an emergency appendectomy. The boy meets Jesus and angels, as well as his great-grandfather and a sister who died in her mother’s womb. Colton learns things he couldn’t possibly have known through natural means. Yet when he confides in his parents about all this, his dad is skeptical and his mom doesn’t really believe him at all.

But that’s not the worst of it.

When Todd starts talking about this from the pulpit at church, many parishioners are aghast. Todd is called before the church board, who tells him they’re looking for a replacement minister because they’ve lost confidence in him for all this talk about heaven. And when he’s called upon to a deliver a sort of “do or die” sermon to save his job and confront all the controversy head on, he delivers a homily so vapid that it couldn’t have inspired a man with a cold to blow his nose. Todd says a few words about everybody having a different idea of what heaven is, and isn’t that great, and nobody really knows, but let’s all get along here on earth in the meantime.

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