“Heaven is for Real” is based on the true story of a 4-year-old Nebraska boy who, after major surgery, tells his father — a local minister — that he’s been to heaven. Although there are immediate doubts, people begin to accept the story when the youngster reveals information he could only have been given by those who died before he was born.
His tale is inspirational for some and draws the wrath of others, who call it all a fabrication. That becomes a major source of tension in the film.
This story is fodder for countless debates. What should not be overlooked is the strong story of how a family must — along with this big event — deal with the normal hardships of life.
Director Randall Wallace shows — as he did with “Secretariat” and “We Were Soldiers” — that the strength of a movie comes from a focus on family.
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Greg Kinnear’s portrayal of the boy’s father and minister of the local church is more human than most church leaders in film. He spends as much time worrying about the mortgage as he does preaching the gospel.
It helps that Wallace gets an equally strong performance from Kelly Reilly, as the minister’s wife, and a surprisingly good one from 6-year-old Connor Corum. There’s a very natural feel to the way the youngster acts.
The film is not without flaws. The biggest mistake is to actually show what the youngster says he saw in heaven. No matter how reverent the approach, the depiction of angels comes across as a cheesy special effect. And the appearance by Jesus looks like the worst moments from a church Easter production.