I just tried writing a post for this movie and it came out almost unreadable while also being about five paragraphs. I think that’s proof that this, along with other religious movies I’ve recently seen (The Encounter series) are just confusing to me. They are religious based but the people in them are mean or unrealistic about situations. It just feels like a perfect example why I don’t care about any of this. I’m glad religion can be comforting to people but that’s just not me.
This movie is bad and it’s a lot of fun to make fun of. You don’t even have to make fun of religious stuff in it, there are plenty of other elements that make no sense or are just shit all around!
How do I even know where to start with Heaven Is For Real? I guess I’ll start with the title, as that sort of sets the tone. I know it’s based on a book, but that aside, I really don’t know what the filmmakers thought they were accomplishing by naming their movie Heaven Is For Real. Naming your movie that and then turning right around and adding “Based On a True Story” is a bit of a conflict to me. Because no matter what your religion is, I think it’s safe to say that no matter what anyone believes, as far as we know, the existence of heaven has never been proven. Proving that heaven exists would be a pretty big deal, so I think everyone would know it by now if the story this movie is based on were true. So we’re supposed to agree with the message of the movie (that heaven is real, in case that wasn’t obvious) based on nothing more than what a fever-ravaged 4 year old son of a preacher says. This does not sound like the start to a life-altering movie.
To get the plot out of the way, Greg Kinnear plays Todd Burpo. Todd Burpo. Burpo. The Burpo name is mentioned at least 13 times throughout the movie (we counted) and their mailbox with the Burpo name is shown probably half a dozen times:
So in case you might forget that they have a shitty name like Burpo, the filmmakers are always ready to remind you. Todd Burpo is a pastor in some kind of Christian church, along with his wife Sonja (Kelly Reilly), son Colton (Connor Corum), and daughter Cassie (Lane Styles). The Burpos have impending money issues looming over them, which is constantly told to us but you would never know considering their lush, expansive farmland and gigantic house:
Todd injuries himself during a softball game. That’s fine, not a big deal. Except he fucked himself UP during this softball game. This is the injury he gets from sliding into the base:
Is that his bone sticking out? From sliding into base? At an amateur softball game? Uh, okay. This injury also causes Todd to have crazy back spasms (not sure about the connection there) and take time off from the church. Around this same time, Colton and Cassie come down with what appears to be the flu. Cassie gets better, but Colton doesn’t. In fact, not only does Colton not get better, his parents keep him in the house for 4 days with a 103 degree fever. UH WHAT?! They live in Nebraska, not some middle of nowhere cabin somewhere. And didn’t Todd just go to the hospital because he hurt himself playing fucking softball, but their 4 year old having a fever of 103 for 4 days isn’t enough to warrant a hospital visit? Whaaaaaaaaaaat? I’m not a doctor or a parent or anything close to those, but I can say that if Chris, who is an adult, had that high of a fever for that long I would take him to the hospital sooner than that. This serious lapse in parenting and judgment made it reallyyyyyyy hard for me to have any kind of sympathy for the parents after this point.
So, turns out, Colton has a burst appendix and is given emergency surgery, but he survives without issue. Afterward, though, Colton starts dropping weird hints that he’s seen heaven. Todd eggs him on and probes him a bit until Colton tells him that he saw Jesus and heaven and various dead relatives. It’s never explained why this happened even though Colton didn’t die . . . but whatever. Todd is down to believe him so he tells the family and the church and the inspiration just goes from there!
But before I go further I need to point out something really important. Heaven Is For Real is blue. I mean that literally. It is the bluest movie I have ever seen. It’s bluer than I Know Who Killed Me and bluer than the Viagra world that all those commercials take place in. The amount of blue in this movie is unreal, and for that reason I have compiled a small (comparatively, believe me) sample of how insane and awful this art direction is:
All those pictures, like the one directly above, of Todd preaching are from different scenes, by the way. It’s as if it was required that he wear a blue shirt against that insane blue background. What’s most annoying about all the blue, besides how distracting it is, is that there doesn’t seem to be a reason for it. The blue doesn’t seem to symbolize anything or designate anything or anyone as anything. Everything’s just . . . blue. For no reason.
On an off we also get flashes to Colton’s version of heaven:
Which includes giggling angels and a very white Jesus. Todd believes Colton more and more as he gives Todd more details about what he saw, like seeing a young version of Todd’s grandfather (whom Todd said he was extremely close to, but was Colton’s age when he died, so he was 4?). Colton also claims to have seen his would-be sister, whom Sonja lost in a miscarriage. Even though this not-real sister is unnamed due to the miscarriage, she can apparently talk and walk and hug Colton. So how does that work? If you have a miscarriage, the fetus ends up in heaven in the form of the human it would have been but still ends up nameless, instead of with the name it would have been given? What the fuck is that?
No one seems to take into account during this whole time that Colton had a really high fever for multiple days and then was put under sedation for major surgery during the time that he had these visions. When I was in second grade I had to be put under sedation for a non-surgical thing, and I remember feeling like I was talking to my mom the whole time. I’ve since assumed I felt that way because I was freaked out and my mom is comforting. Wouldn’t it make sense that Colton, raised as a hardcore Christian with all the beliefs of heaven thrown in, turn to his own ideas of heaven and Jesus at a time of serious distress like that? It’s totally legitimate, and it also doesn’t mean that Colton didn’t see what he claims to have seen. But I guess that would just be too logical of a route to take, so instead everyone just starts to believe this not-dead kid went to heaven.
Also, I think it’s worth pointing out something weird. The Heaven Is For Real Blu-ray (yeah, we got the Blu-ray for this) came with a few trailers, most of which came from the same Christian-based studio. But the last trailer was for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Chris and I both thought that was a weird change, but then again, Heaven Is For Real was very successful, so it sort of made sense. But then we started the movie, and there’s Spiderman everywhere!
Why so much Spiderman? Is Marvel in cahoots with this Christian movie studio for some reason? I don’t normally think twice about product placement, but all the Spiderman stuff, especially with the trailer in the beginning, was just distracting.
So no, obviously Heaven Is For Real is not good. Not remotely. But it’s super funny and watchable, so I would certainly recommend it for that.
And lastly, here’s a shot of the scene where Todd Burpo finally uses all of his ministry and intellectual resources to get to the bottom of what’s wrong with his son: