After his four-year-old son has emergency surgery, Todd (Greg Kinnear) is surprised to hear young Colton (Connor Corum) talk about his trip to heaven, encounters with Jesus and people from Todd’s pat that he could never have met. Colton’s revelations stir up complicated feelings in the residents of their small town, and even more complex ones in Todd, a pastor at the town’s church.
Based on a book of the same name, Heaven is for Real is the story of a little boy who goes for routine surgery to remove his appendix, does not suffer any adverse affects during the operation, but comes out of the procedure with the belief that he has been in the company of Jesus, met the sister he never had and has no reason to be afraid any more. There are so many things about this story that are so twee as to be stifling, and the fact that this child’s father is a preacher is just one of them.
Greg Kinnear immediately undoes any good he had done with his cameo role in Anchorman 2 with his role in Heaven is For Real. It’s not that Kinnear is bad; it’s just that he is utterly unremarkable. Kelly Riley suffers the safe fate as Todd’s wife Sonja, and Lane Styles has so little to do as the miracle child’s older sister she may as well not be there.
Speaking of the Miracle Child, Connor Corum is not quite the worst child actor we have seen on screen, but he is so over directed, cautious and obviously afraid of making a mistake, that every step he takes – sometimes literally – is over thought and unnatural. Thomas Hayden Church is in the movie too, playing Thomas Hayden Church, or a version of him.
Writer/director Randall Wallace has created a film that not only bangs the audience over the head with religion, but also with the knowledge that we will never live up to Todd and his amazing family. After all, Todd is not only a garage door technician who will take carpet as payment, but he is also a volunteer firefighter, a pastor and a man so in love with his wife and kids as to be sickening. Honestly, there is almost no hint that this man is human at all. As well as this, many of the scenes try so hard to be wholesome and sweet that they end up being cringe worthy and painful. Couple this with a load of expository dialogue and disaster looms.
Heaven in for Real is a twee, embarrassing and painful film that tries to examine the nature of belief and faith, but ends up lost in its own sentimentality. That said though, it is hard to know what else could have been expected from the man who wrote the lyrics for the hymn Mansions of the Lord, sung at President Ronald Reagan’s national funeral.