Movie review: Small-town life, child's faith tested in 'Heaven'

MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICEApril 18, 2014 

1134662 - Heaven Is For Real

Connor Corum plays a boy who says he has been to heaven in “Heaven is for Real.”

  • HEAVEN IS FOR REAL ••

    Rated: PG thematic material including some medical situations. Starring: Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Connor Corum, Thomas Haden Church. Director: Randall Wallace. Running time: 100 minutes. Theaters: Edwards 22, Edwards 14 and Edwards 12 in Nampa, Majestic 18 and Village Cinema in Meridian.

Greg Kinnear, an actor perpetually on the verge of tears, is the perfect choice to play a preacher whose son tells him he's been to heaven. And "Heaven is for Real," based on a book by a Nebraska pastor about his then-4-year-old son's near-death experience and account of a visit to heaven, is a sometimes touching and comforting account of this family's story.

It's a child's tale, and the childlike faith of the kid (Connor Corum) who almost died of a burst appendix is underscored at every turn in this Randall Wallace ("Braveheart") drama.

Kinnear, as Todd Burpo, does his best to suggest a guy overwhelmed by the thought that the words he says every Sunday have a real-world relevance that his kid has seen firsthand.

What's novel about "Heaven" is the weight the film gives to alternative explanations for Colton's miraculous recovery (his dad's congregation prays en masse for him) and what he says he saw "up there" in the clouds, sitting on the lap of Jesus, with singing angels who giggle when he makes a request: "Can we do 'We Will Rock You'?"

Is what little Colton's saying merely "an echo" of the house and environment he grew up in? Is this his elaborate fairy tale re-creation of the sort of heaven kids are taught in Sunday school? Or does he have too many details, too many descriptions of dead family members he's never met for this to be not "for real"?

"Heaven is for Real" accentuates the simple faith ingrained in a kid who learns "Jesus Loves the Little Children" in the cradle. Whatever the film's other failings, it presents an incredible story with a credulous, approachable innocence that it to be envied, whether or not you believe a word of it.

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