Rental Corner: “Heaven” lacks heart
The following reflects only the narrative and structure of “Heaven Is For Real.” Having not read the book, it was decided to base my thoughts on the movie only. I understand it’s a non-fiction piece but sometimes a film can take certain liberties. Wither or not these things are true, the thoughts and opinion will be judged on the movie only and not the source. This is not a discussion about religion or a question of beliefs. This is a movie review.
The story goes is that four-year old Colton Burpo had a near death experience during surgery on his appendicitis and saw a vision of Heaven and Jesus talking to him. A questionable but yet extraordinary event that later lead to the publishing of Christian book documenting the experience he had. Many have questioned the nature of this experience while others have been inspired by these visions. And like all best-sellers, Sony Pictures bought up the rights and made a movie out of it like the standard way of book adaptions these days. Don’t get me wrong. A near-death experience is serious to consider. But the problem with this adaption of “Heaven Is For Real” is the depiction of the attitude towards what some keep saying is a miracle.
If the movie keeps relating to this being a miracle, then how come we spend less time with the community and more with the family? I understand how much it can impact a Christian family but what about those outside? And here is one of the problems with this movie. Most of the time we see the Burpo family teeter back and forth about question the nature of their son’s vision and I can see why its the focus of the film. But what lacks is the social pressure that acts against this. A moment like this feels like it should be questioned to others and we do see a newspaper article circulate through the town and a scene when Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo, the father, lead a sermon on his son’s meeting with Jesus with some skeptical attendants trying to make sense or question the honesty behind it. After that, there isn’t much a big impact. Nothing feels remarkable or sensational as the depicted reaction feels close to a typical shrug as opposed to awe or growing curiosity.
Even more disappointing are the scenes depicting Colton’s vision which I personally feel would have gained more effect if it was told and not shown. We see a set of CGI angels in bright lights and an actor playing Jesus with his face obscured. The awe is ruined by the visual depiction of Heaven that should have been more mysterious and left to the viewer’s imagination. Telling it would have been more effective than showing a CGI heavy sequence that feels incomplete in appearance and execution.
Even more perplexing is the first 14 minutes that starts off like a real-life parable that feels out of place with the theoretical “Heaven” tries to set up as Colton’s dad Todd is shown to be a man of many occupations ranging from pastor to volunteer fire-fighter and even a coach for high school wrestling. And then Todd gets hit with a series of events ranging from a shattered leg injury during a baseball game to the passing of multiple kidney stones. I guess this is supposed to feel like a parallel to the story of Job but it feels out of place here. I understand also its supposed to show the hardships the Burpo family went through but I feel this information is too much.
Is there any good to say here? Well, there are moments that do have an emotional impact like Colton going through surgery and you see all the people praying and hoping. They work well and feel decently executed but the rest of the movie has that feeling of those Disney sports dramas from the late 1990’s where one’s spirit would be broken and they would have to try and gain it back. Its that with a pinch of basic melodrama in the acting that makes the execution more dull. I normally don’t criticize child actors but if I had a near death experience and saw these images, I would be moved and amazing by it. The way the kid actor Connor Corum delivers his lines feels flat and uninspired talking about this amazing experience like it was another walk in the park.
Another problem I had was the mode of parenting depicted in this movie. Again, regardless of it being true or not, the Burpos act like their son’s event in the hospital was just another casual dream with the exception of the dad who grows curious to the point we are not sure if its out of questioning what he is preaching or what he believes in. There’s even a subplot where its revealed they had a miscarriage off-screen and Colton talks about how he met the sister he never had that even the parents didn’t tell him about. OK, I can see how the idea of explaining that to a child is difficult even at the age of 4 but early on, the boy gets sick fast and they don’t bother to bring him to a hospital immediately and it takes them a few days to finally decide to bring him to one. Even when he has a temp of 104 and is out like a burned-up light bulb. I have no words.
I can see what “Heaven Is For Real” is trying to do but nothing comes together. All we get are some nice scenes here and there; some of which just feel added in for either manipulation or just to add something to the pot for interest. A better example of a movie like this done right is 1996’s Phenomenon where John Travolta is an everyday man that gets turned into genius with telekinesis powers. Even more strange is how the reactions of the community on Travolta’s new found power with awe and fear is depicted more realistic than those in “Heaven Is For Real.” Funny how a film of fiction is more accurate when it comes to how a miracle can shake things up compared to this recent flick. Maybe if it was done as more of a documentary, there would be some interest going deep into the story behind the vision and perhaps the attitudes of the family. But as a film from Hollywood with starts and told with some creative liberties, I unfortunately found it to be less inspirational and more of a bore.
Posted on July 23, 2014, in Rental Corner and tagged Burpo Family, Christanity, Colton Burpo, God, Heaven Is For Real, Jesus, near death experience, Religious, rental corner, Theoretical, True Story. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.