Shallow. Unmoving. Poor support of the point it was trying to make. Oh let me tell you how much I just loved Heaven is for Real.
In a world where there are thousands of Near Death Experiences where people who have been blind from birth can tell you what color the doctors in the OR were wearing while they had flat lined, where people come back with messages from dead loved ones with information that they could have no way of knowing beforehand, or where the person having the NDE goes completely brain dead so there is no way their brain could have just been hallucinating…we bring you a movie about a kid who never actually died and came back with information that any skeptic could tear holes in. Oh, then the movie just sucked on any standard of film making as well.
Let’s first deal with how bad the movie is.
The film follows a family, the Burpos, as they deal with the fact that their son nearly died and claims to have gone to Heaven. They deal with their own crises of faith and with being somewhat shunned by the community as others deal with their own crises of faith.
Well first off there are the numerous financial and personal problems the family in this film had to deal with (beside the kid almost dying). None of them get resolved
The entire film seems to be about everyone, the family, the parish, the community having a hard time accepting the concept of life after death—this does little more than to portray most Christians as shallow people who cling to the church out of fear, which I personally don’t think applies to all Christians, yeah we’ve all met some people like that…but it’s everybody in this film. It’s a little bizarre that this is what is being hyped as a faith based film given that it shows most church going folk to be hypocrites when you just scratch the surface. Yeah, real inspiring.
Also I felt that the writers didn’t even recognize their own hypocrisy in the final sermon in the film (which I’m guessing was supposed to offer some kind of catharsis, though I didn’t get any) among other things chided people for pride…even though it came from a guy who throughout much of the movie refused help from a friend even though he’s $20,000+ in debt and there was no resolution to this (except maybe the paycheck they got from writing the book but I’m trying not to confuse the movie with reality).
But the real problem is that none of it is all that moving. From the actors I recognized I have seen them all give better performances, and none of the crises of faith I see anyone go through in this film ever seems to fully make sense to me (I don’t get how all these people who are so active in a church can all be so full of doubts and disbelief…I understand individuals having a crisis of faith, I don’t understand a seemingly entire congregation becoming hostile to what should seemingly confirm their beliefs). No single character’s story ever seems to be dealt with in detail in the film and it just is all half-assed through the run time.
Oh and there’s some girl in Lithuania painting pictures…I never really got the point of this and could ponder for eons what possessed the director to put this random and pointless part in.
Now a lot of this could be due to the fact that as an NDE goes, this kid’s story isn’t what I’d call ironclad. He never died, his story isn’t particularly consistent, and none of the information he gives is beyond all doubt that he never heard it from other people. I believe in NDE’s the soul actually does touch the afterlife and see Heaven…but I also happen to know from research that there are cases that leave no logical explanation other than a person’s soul actually did leave their body and touch the other side. There is no such certainty here. I’m not saying the kid didn’t experience exactly what he describes (or at least as well as the movie relays it) but there are so many logical ways one could also be skeptical that the movie is only going to affect people who already believe (and in my case, not even that). I actually am a little annoyed as you can only get so many movies with a theme like this made and distrusted to a general audience…and if you really want to get people to believe in the truth that there is an afterlife, I would not put a movie with such weak backing. Also I’m just a tad annoyed that one of the most important facts about NDE’s: that everyone goes to Heaven, Christians, Jews, Pagans, Muslims, atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, everyone (because God doesn’t care about that sort of thing) seemed to get lost in a lot of talk of Jesus (I have no problem with Jesus or what he taught, but this film veered a little too much to the you only get into Heaven through Christianity bend for my tastes given that serious research into NDE’s shows exactly the opposite).
I have not read the book, and this movie certainly doesn’t convince me I should.
If you want a good movie that is actually moving about the life after death go watch Hereafter. If you want good well researched material about proof of life after this one I would suggest starting with Life before Life–Children’s Memories of Previous Lives or Evidence of the Afterlife.
Final Grade D-