Director Randall Wallace has done a nice job bringing the based-on-a-true-story best-selling book “Heaven Is for Real” to the big screen.
The film’s inspirational aspect is heightened by how painstakingly it shows the Burpos were a typical small-town preacher’s family, with the everyday ups and downs that come with raising children, managing a household and leading a congregation. Their lives are changed forever when 4-year-old Colton Burpo says he has been to heaven.
What would anyone do if their young child said he went to heaven and interacted with angels and Jesus, among other things? Well, Todd and Sonja Burpo are baffled at first, when their son says he visited heaven while doctors worked to save his life after his appendix ruptured. The movie essentially chronicles how the family and their congregation come to terms with Colton’s near-death experience.
There were a few places where I thought the film slowed a little too much, but the story never lost focus, thanks to the actors.
I read the 2010 book written by Todd Burpo (with Lynn Vincent), and I loved how Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo and little Connor Corum (who is absolutely adorable) as Colton bring the dad/son duo to life. The scenes between the two of them resonate, whether they are just a father and son laughing together on the front porch or having a touching discussion about the hereafter.
Kinnear convincingly conveys Todd Burpo’s amazement as his son tells his story of heaven in bits and pieces, as children are prone to do. The actor does a fantastic job portraying the preacher as he struggles to grasp and ultimately accept the child’s experience as real. It took Todd Burpo a lot more time to accept his son’s experience as real than some people might think it would, given that he is preacher. But that’s the beauty of it — accounts of near-death experiences may puzzle even people who explore concepts like heaven all the time, causing them to grapple with their understanding of God, death and the afterlife. And that’s not a bad thing, the film seems to say.
Kelly Reilly as Todd’s wife and Colton’s mom is great as a loving preacher’s wife who wears many hats. Margo Martindale should be commended, too, for her portrayal of a grieving mother and church board member who is not sure what to make of Colton’s heavenly experience or the fact that her pastor decides to share the story with others.
It’s a heartwarming film that should do well, particularly during the Easter season.
— Carla Hinton,
‘Heaven Is for Real’
PG 1:20 3 1/2 stars
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Connor Corum, Margo Martindale, Thomas Haden Church.