Heaven is for Real Blu-ray Review
HEAVEN IS FOR REAL hit Blu-ray recently and I recall its limited run in theaters but nothing else about it really comes to mind as I put the Blu-ray into my player. Then I read the ‘Based on the Incredible True Story’ by-line on the disc. I recall hearing about this when the book upon which this movie was sitting atop the NY Times’ Bestseller list and not really knowing what to think. In some ways this is a difficult review because it would be so easy to break off into my own beliefs and how this either supports or goes against them. But that is not what we’re here to do. Is this movie worth your time, regardless of your belief system? Let’s just say it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
HEAVEN IS FOR REAL is the story of the Burpo family; Todd and Sonja and their two children living in small-town Nebraska. The family is heavily involved in their community and their church, where Todd (played ably by the versatile Greg Kinnear) is the pastor. Their lives are forever changed, however, when their 4-year-old son Colton becomes very ill. After being misdiagnosed they find out he’s actually suffering from a burst appendix. After being rushed into surgery they nearly lose their son; but Colton emerges from the surgery and soon reveals while he was in the operating room he went to Heaven.
The Burpo family is rocked by this revelation as Colton seems to know things that no four year old would regularly know. The whole situation is complicated, though, by this becoming the focal point for the family and their entire community, which struggles with the voracity of Colton (and his parents) insistent claims. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL doesn’t delve into the greater questions lurking beneath the story but instead chooses to act as though everything that is claimed actually happened. The result is an interesting take, including one of the more memorable scenes of heaven I can remember.
So what did I mean by mixed bag? Well – to start off the casting is incredibly uneven. Primary male leads Kinnear and Thomas Hayden-Church both perform very well in the film but the rest of the central cast is just average. In fact they look (both in appearance on my television and in photographs) a bit bored and incredibly uncomfortable. But when you want to go for realism sometimes that is the price you must pay. I was surprised at just how much I didn’t like the young man who played Colton. I believe this is his first acting experience and while he has moments that are mesmerizing his overall performance is just a bit stilted and awkward. His scenes with Kinnear are by far the best though I put most of that on Kineear’s shoulders.
The filmmaking is pretty average as well with beautiful shots of the landscape punched up with some very old-timey set pieces. I get the whole small-town feel but it honestly seems a bit disingenuous for a film that aspires to be authentic. Director Randall Wallace has had his hands in a few great films (including writing BRAVEHEART, one of my personal favorites) but in directing this picture it feels a bit like he has lost his way. And when you put everything together, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL feels far too much like a soap opera with the strange movement, tracers, and oddly disconnected acting.
HEAVEN IS FOR REAL BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.39:1) HEAVEN IS FOR REAL is technically quite beautiful but the film has a certain soap-opera feeling that doesn’t translate well to Blu-ray/HD.
Audio: (English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) The audio presentation of HEAVEN IS FOR REAL is immersive and well-mixed.
Deleted Scenes (08:23) six scenes that were cut from HEAVEN IS FOR REAL are presented on the Blu-ray. They do little to advance the plot and are introduce several subplots that are both distracting and cast the family Burpo in a less than positive light. I’m not surprised these were cut from the film at all, and they are really a waste of time.
The Making of HEAVEN IS FOR REAL (13:08) director Randall Wallace talks about his commitment to reality and how to present the story of HEAVEN IS FOR REAL They spend a great deal of time discussing the premise that heaven is all around us and how and why they shot and cast the film in such a way as to try to bring this story to life.
Colton Goes to Heaven (04:17) Interview footage with the Burpo family is intercut with footage from HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, as they discuss their belief in Colton’s story.
Creating Heaven (04:24) Filmmakers discuss the way they presented heaven in HEAVEN IS FOR REAL and the decisions they made to try to keep everything as authentic as possible.