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Blu-ray Review: Heaven is for Real

July 22, 2014

Heaven is for Real Blu-ray

Heaven is for Real – A Sony Pictures Release
Blu-ray Release Date: July 22nd, 2014
Rated PG for thematic material
Running Time: 99 minutes

Randall Wallace (director)

Randall Wallace (screenplay)
Christopher Parker (screenplay)

Based on the book by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent

Nick Glennie-Smith (music)

Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo
Connor Corum as Colton Burpo
Kelly Reilly as Sonja Burpo
Thomas Haden Church as Jay Wilkins
Lane Styles as Cassie Burpo
Margo Martindale as Nancy Rawling

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Heaven is for Real Blu-ray Review By John Corrado

**1/2 (out of 4)

After Colton Burpo (Connor Corum) goes to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy and nearly doesn’t make it through the surgery, the young boy starts claiming to have visited Heaven during the operation.  Although his father Todd (Greg Kinnear) is the pastor of their local church, and his mother Sonja (Kelly Reilly) and older sister Cassie (Lane Styles) are also very religious, they aren’t prepared for the fantastical visions that Colton starts to describe, and the controversy that his experience ignites throughout their town.

Based on a true story, Heaven is for Real was the subject of a bestselling book.  I don’t fault audiences for finding joy and even profound inspiration in Colton’s story, and it’s easy to take comfort in the more intimate details of his experience.  I just wish this was a more even film.  Directed by Randall Wallace, who last helmed the great Secretariat, Heaven is for Real had the potential to be something more than just another religious melodrama.  But the production is too glossy, the screenwriting just okay, and the overly sappy tone often overshadows the more dramatic elements.  Although with fine performances and a well intentioned story, faithful audiences should at least find lots to enjoy.

The Blu-ray also has deleted scenes and a couple of featurettes, including one with the Burpo family.

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Heaven is for Real Blu-ray Review By Erin V.

**1/2 (out of 4)

Based on the true story and best-selling book by Todd Burpo (played here by Greg Kinnear), Heaven Is For Real is about a family in Nebraska whose son after getting emergency surgery told them he went to Heaven during the procedure.  Young Colton Burpo (newcomer Connor Corum) is just four years old, and lives in a home where faith is strong (his father is the local pastor).  Predictably, some people are uncomfortable with the family talking about what Colton explains he experiences.

The film has its problems in its set-up, and structure.  We get an extended first act before the inciting incident of Colton’s surgery even happens.  A lot focuses on the father near the beginning and since the story really revolves around what Colton says (“Heaven is for real”) it doesn’t make sense that we don’t get to that part until almost a third of the way through the film.  Most of the set-up seems to be trying to establish how religious the family is, but that was clear within the first five minutes.

Once the inciting incident does happen, things pick up a bit, then stall out again.  The second and third act are almost indistinguishable from each other, with no really amping up of any stakes or real buildup to the climax and resolution.  The fact is, tonally we get almost complacent and never move past this, which takes us out of the film.  I get that it’s based on a true story – but these are structuring issues that with a few scene adjustments can be dealt with without compromising the story they have decided to tell.

For those who loved the book, I’m sure they will enjoy seeing the story brought to screen.  Unfortunately this is a film that could have been done better.  Still, for a rental if you’re interested, it’s easy enough to check out for yourself now that it’s on DVD.

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Heaven is for Real Blu-ray Review By Nicole

**1/2 (out of 4)

Based on the true story of the same name, Heaven is for Real is a harmless Christian movie for families.  Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear) is a small town pastor who is struggling with his faith.  But when his four year old son Colton (newcomer Connor Corum) gets appendicitis, he experiences a powerful out of body experience during his surgery.

Colton did not have a near death experience, since he didn’t go into cardiac arrest, or lose any brain function.  It should be emphasized to young viewers that Colton never died.  Some children associate being “put to sleep” for surgery with death.  Children may also be confused into thinking Heaven is somewhere to go on vacation, as opposed to an afterlife.  Colton’s experience was a mystic, prophetic and spiritual vision, but his soul likely never actually left his body.  Simply experiencing a spiritual vision would have still been a miracle.

Todd is unaware of Colton’s vision, until he mentions visiting Jesus, angels, his late great granddad whom he never met, and an older sister who died as a miscarriage.  Colton couldn’t have seen these people unless he really did go on a mental trip to Heaven.  Colton’s parents desperately want their son to be “normal,” but eventually realize his unique experience maybe what our increasingly secular world needs to gain enlightenment.  I would love to see a film about the young mystic artist Akiane Kramarik who is briefly mentioned in the film.  Her Prince of Peace painting is absolutely haunting.

Heaven is for Real is not that great in terms of filmmaking.  While the acting is fine, the Heaven scenes are laughably cheesy and silly looking.  The movie also seems a little long.  But its message is really good.  One thing I loved was the mention of animals in Heaven, including Jesus’ “Horse of a Different Colour.”  Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t show the heavenly animals.  However, their mention subtly proves animals do have souls, a notion that many people sadly disregard.

I also like that they showed a Middle Eastern Jesus, a subtle message that Jesus is universal, not just a saviour for the Western world.  We need more people to help bring Christianity back to its universal, multicultural and animal friendly roots.  Heaven is for Real is a gentle film that sparks important discussions about how we can bring heavenly qualities back to Earth.

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Heaven is for Real Blu-ray Review By Maureen

**1/2 (out of 4)

Now that Heaven is for Real is available on the home entertainment market, a lot of Christian families will want to add this film to their personal library.  Based on a true story and adapted from the New York Times bestseller with the same title, Heaven is for Real touched a lot of people and sparked discussions about the existence of heaven.

Colton Burpo (Connor Corum) was four years old when he had a near death experience while undergoing an emergency appendectomy.  During that time, Colton said he saw angels, met Jesus and relatives whom he had never met.  Colton’s father Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear) was a Nebraskan pastor whose Christian faith was challenged by the extraordinary things his son was sharing with him.

This movie version of the Burpo family’s story will appeal to Christian believers looking for a sentimental film that the whole family can sit together to watch.  The acting is decent, with Greg Kinnear giving a good performance and young Connor Corum lighting up the screen with his adorably innocent face.  The storyline is a little on the melodramatic side at times, and drags in more than one scene.  As for the special effects in the heavenly visions, I sincerely hope things won’t look that cheesy when I finally go through the pearly gates.

If you liked the book and are a believer, then Heaven is for Real is worth checking out on disc.  Church groups and Christian families will be the main audience for this movie.

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Heaven is for Real Blu-ray Review By Tony

**1/2 (out of 4)

Heaven is for Real is based on a recent best selling book by Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear) about apparitions of Heaven related by his four year old son Colton (Connor Corum) in 2003. Todd is a small town Nebraska preacher who also volunteers as a firefighter and high school coach, struggling to make ends meet as an installer of garage doors in a depressed economy, particularly once the hospital bills come due.

Colton’s near death and out of body experiences during an emergency appendectomy included vivid visions of Heaven, Jesus and some dead people that he couldn’t have known about otherwise. When Todd shares his son’s story with the congregation the response is mixed between inspiration and skepticism, and church elders Jay Wilkins (Thomas Haden Church) and Nancy Rawling (Margo Martindale) are afraid he may have to be replaced. Even Todd’s wife Sonja (Kelly Reilly) is troubled, but remains loyal and loving throughout.

Heaven is for Real is a decent American Protestant counterpart to apparition accounts from Lourdes, Fatima and more recently Medjugorje that have provided inspiration for many Catholics. Written and directed by Randall Wallace, it is anything but subtle, much more like a Hallmark or Christian film than would be expected from its Sony TriStar studios. The heavenly visions are particularly weird, with strange lighting and colours and angels that reminded me of a blurred vision of TriStar’s flying horse logo.

However, Todd’s thoughtful responses to his son’s experience, with excellent performances from Greg Kinnear and Connor Corum, make the film worth seeing beyond its target churchgoing audience.

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Consensus: Although the visuals sometimes falter and the story can feel melodramatic, Heaven is for Real is a decent film for Christian families, with fine performances from Greg Kinnear and newcomer Connor Corum. **1/2 (out of 4)

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