(NEW YORK) -- Based on the best-selling non-fiction book of the same name, Heaven Is for Real stars Greg Kinnear as Pastor Todd Burpo. In addition to being his church’s pastor, he coaches the local high school wrestling team and is also a volunteer fireman. He’s passionate about his faith but most passionate about his family. And there will be no greater test of his faith than when his 4-year-old son, Colton, needs emergency surgery and almost dies.
Following the surgery, something is a little different about Colton. First, he asks his dad if they can return to a butterfly preserve where the young man passed up an opportunity to hold a tarantula: Colton wants to go back because he’s no longer afraid. When Todd asks if the hospital scared him, his son responds, “No, that’s where the angels sang to me.” Colton goes on to reveal that the angels sang to him during surgery, while his mother was in one room making calls on her mobile phone and Todd was in another room yelling at God.
Todd, reasonably, is a bit freaked out, since that’s exactly what took place during Colton’s surgery. It doesn’t end there: Colton also reveals that he visited Heaven, met his great-grandfather, his unborn sister, and Jesus.
Thanks to Kinnear’s earnest performance, you can’t help but feel for him, though it’s difficult to understand Todd’s lack of faith in Heaven before Colton’s surgery, given that he’s a pastor. Connor Corum as Colton is also an excellent find, as this young actor is asked to do a lot. He does it well, but the performances aren’t enough to elevate the vanilla narrative from a faith-based film that will only preach to the choir, to a quality piece of filmmaking that will appeal to moviegoers beyond that audience.
But nobody here is trying to win an Oscar. They’re trying to win the hearts and minds of the faith-based audience that will undoubtedly show up in great numbers to find out if Heaven Is for Real. I suspect they will succeed.
Two-and-a-half out of five stars.
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