When Colton Burpo is forced to undergo an emergency surgery at a young age, his parents’ worst nightmare comes true when he flat-lines on the operating table. But Colton survives the procedure and lives to tell about his near-death experience with Jesus in Heaven. The young boy claims to have met dead relatives he never knew and his miscarried sister, whom he never knew about. As a pastor of a small Nebraska church, Colton’s father Todd is faced with the tough decision to make this news public and risk ridicule or to keep silent about it. Do miracles really exist or are they just stories? Ultimately, this is what they will have to decide.
Production Quality (2 points)
With obvious backing from big Hollywood names and the right amount of funding, Heaven is for Real looks good on the surface. The video quality is top notch, as is the camera work and audio quality. The soundtrack could use a little work, but this is only a minor problem. The sets and locations are professionally done and the surroundings are authentic. Prop usage is appropriate and adds to the plot. The use of special effects is intriguing, especially those that accompany the spiritual\psychological elements. The only complaints here pertain to the editing, which of course goes hand in hand with the plot. There is little continuity as the creators try to cover too much ground at once. But otherwise, whatever you might think about those behind the movie or their motives, this is the almost ideal production quality for a Christian-themed film.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)
Heaven is for Real is about far more than just an attempt to prove or discuss the existence of the afterlife. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but there is just too much content that is forced into this film. One would expect the real people that are supposed to be portrayed in this film to have multiple facets to their lives, but there is no focus among the various ideas that are floated throughout the storyline. In the nearly two-hour runtime, you can learn a lot about small town stuff, small church issues, financial struggles, the counseling process, philosophical discussions on miracles, the ins and outs of a volunteer fire department, the daily issues that face a rural working class family, a girl that claims to have painted Jesus, and oh yeah, a boy who had a near-death experience with heaven. With the proper continuity, all of these issues would have been pertinent and interesting to watch, but this does not exist in Heaven is for Real. Despite spending a lot of time with the characters, by the end of the film, we don’t really know them. Dialogue is flat and only serves the purpose of driving the plot along. While the spiritual\psychological elements regarding the afterlife and the spiritual realm are inspiring, they are passive and are not given enough attention. The end is fairly interesting, but there is little buildup to it. Basically, there was a lot of potential here, but it was poorly handled.
Acting Quality (2.5 points)
With ‘big name’ cast members and clear money spent here, there are few errors to point out. Coaching is obvious present and a general air of professionalism is evident. Even though the lines aren’t very good, they are delivered well. Emotions are believable. In short, this is the way the cast of a Christian-themed film should be.
This movie was marketed on an inspirational platform that promised to rally Christians and ‘prove’ that Heaven is for real (duh). But in reality, Heaven is a very small player in this film as runtime is spent on other various topics. Whatever you might believe about near-death experiences and their plausibility, it’s still something that needs to be discussed in the context of film—and we’re still waiting. Heaven is for Real did not deliver on what it advertised, and while it was obviously well-funded and well-marketed, it did not leave a lasting effect on the field. It takes meaning and heart to do this, and when it comes down to it, it feels like all the creators of this movie wanted to do was make easy money.
Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points