Same Kind of Different As Me (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ron Hall is a successful art dealer who has it all—except for a successful marriage.  He and his wife Debbie have grown apart from each other, and he has been looking in the wrong directions for love.  His marital conflict has now come to a head, so Debbie decides to make Ron exit his safe, affluent world to come volunteer with her at the local homeless shelter.  While there, though his heart is not in the work at all, Ron forms an unlikely relationship with a violent homeless man whose story captivates Ron in a way he never expected.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a clearly well-funded and well-marketed production, Same Kind of Different As Me had a lot going for it from the get-go.  This production is obviously high quality in a lot of ways, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is also very intriguing.  Sets, locations, and props are very well-constructed and utilized appropriately, especially the historical components in the flashbacks.  The only minor nitpick to note here pertains to some small editing issues, such as lagging scenes and awkward transitions.  Otherwise, this production is top-notch.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As Same Kind of Different As Me is based on a book and a true story, sometimes it seems like it’s too much like a book turned into a movie.  This is evident in unnecessary narration and obvious dialogue that tends to spoon-feed the story to the viewer.  Some of the characters tend to be portrayed too perfectly, yet this is a great true story despite these flaws.  The flashbacks are used in highly effective ways and are actually the highlights of the film because of the story they tell.  There are a lot of great messages and lessons to learn from this story, but we would have liked it if this film indulged less in drama and more in the opportunity it had to portray an epic story full of realistic, flawed, and accessible characters.  As mentioned before, there are too many lagging and choppy scenes that hurt this goal from coming to fruition.  However, there is enough good to make this at least an interesting movie to watch.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this movie is mostly professionally cast, there are a few issues that keep this section from being all that it could be.  For one, the lead actor and actress sometimes seem to be phoning in their performances, and at times they are too dramatic.  However, Djimon Hounsou and Jon Voight are particularly well-cast and well-acted; these two almost save this cast on their own.  Moreover, other cast members outside of Greg Kinnear and Renée Zellweger are also fine and post good performances.  In the end, this punctuates an above average film that could have gone further.

Conclusion

Same Kind of Different As Me had everything going for it, but it stopped just short of greatness.  The excellent true story and high amount of funding almost forced this film to be above-average from the beginning, but the pedestrian nature of its presentation and its over-indulgence in drama apart from character development tripped it up.  In the end, we can’t help but wonder if this was another one of those movies designed to make a quick cash grab at the theaters rather than make a real difference, which seems like the original intent of the book’s authors.  We may never know, but this is at least a fine film that most audiences will enjoy.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

Heaven is for Real (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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.

Conclusion

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