Heaven Is For Real


Quick Stats

Actors: , , ,
MPAA Rating:
Release Date: April 16, 2014
Length: 99 minutes
Storyline: The true story of a small-town father who must find the courage and conviction to share his son's extraordinary, life-changing experience with the world.
Studio: Multiple
Producer: Sue Baden-Powell, T.D. Jakes, Joe Roth, Andrew Wallace, Derrick Williams, Kim H. Winther
Written By: Lynn Vincent & Randall Wallace
Plot / Story






Total Score

User Rating
9 total ratings


What We Liked

Strong acting, solid screen-writing, and important subject matter make this movie well worth seeing.

What We Disliked

A couple of spots where pacing is slow. Trailer gives too many important moments away.

Bottom Line

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Posted April 27, 2014 by

Buy, Rent or Cinema

Full Review

Believability. It’s arguably Cardinal Rule #1 in Theatre. It’s also arguably Cardinal Rule #1 in Writing. In fact, it was a writer who first expressed the idea known today as “suspension of disbelief” (And no, sorry thespians, Stanislavki was not the one who came up with this phrase or concept: it was Samuel Taylor Coleridge). What is “suspension of disbelief”? It is the moment when you, the audience, transition from NOT believing something to believing it. It’s the moment when you are watching “Lincoln” knowing full well what you are seeing is Daniel Day Lewis in costume on a set somewhere and suddenly believe you are now watching Abraham Lincoln sitting at his desk in the White House. Put simply, suspension of disbelief is that moment when the door to your imagination unlocks and opens; when you are transported from the here and now to the there and then. It’s when you no longer “know” you are sitting in your living room on a rainy morning reading a book written by Charles Dickens entitled “A Christmas Carol” and that you have to do the laundry later to suddenly “seeing” the snow on Scrooge’s trembling shoulders as he stares down at the gravestone beside the dark, lurking figure of the mysterious Ghost Of Christmas Past. It’s that moment when you transition from “knowing” full well you are seated in a movie theater in Sherman Oaks, on a Friday night, eating popcorn, about to watch a movie directed by Peter Jackson that was filmed in New Zealand to thinking you’re in Middle Earth and the lump in your throat is real as Sam shouts out, “But I can carry you!” as he lifts the weakened Frodo up in his arms, puts him on his back, and pushes toward the entrance of Mordor.

Movies… all stories need you to suspend your disbelief or they don’t work.

“Heaven Is For Real” carries with it something of a double entendre. It is both a movie that needs you to suspend your disbelief because it is a motion picture and it asks you if you are willing to suspend your disbeliefs in real life. Most everyone knows by now that “Heaven Is For Real” is the true story of the Todd and Lynn Burpo and, most specifically, their 4 year-old son, Colton. There are no spoilers here when I tell you the movie is based on the book of the same title and that both are based on the real-life account of Colton Burpo who claims to have been taken to Heaven.

First things first: I enjoyed the movie and I enjoyed primarily because of Greg Kinnear and the supporting cast (including little Connor Corum who does a great job as Colton). I also enjoyed it because Randall Wallace and Chris Parker did a good job with the script. But back to Greg Kinnear. I have liked Mr. Kinnear ever since I first saw him hosting “Talk Soup” and, for those who don’t know it, he is an Oscar-level actor (he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in “As Good As It Gets”). He and the rest of the cast are solid (better said, “believable”). What I found especially refreshing was the representation of a pastor’s family as REAL. This is far and away the most realistic portrayal of a pastor and his family in terms of the way the family interacts with each other, the way he and his wife interact (they actually act as if marital sex and intimacy were something God made and said “it is good”!) and the way they respond when faced with deep challenges (they pray and they break things).

Second of all, there isn’t one trite or corny word spoken (can I get a “hallelujah” from somebody?!?!). This movie could have been so corny as to have needed to be shucked but thankfully no one involved in this production let it get that way and it could have been very easy to do. Instead, the creators made what is clearly are very heart-felt attempt at telling this story with as much integrity and artistic excellence as possible and, for that, they should be applauded. “Heaven Is For Real” won’t be nominated for any Oscars (it shouldn’t) but it sure is worth your time and money; not just for it’s enjoyability as a time at the movies but for the importance of its subject matter; which is precisely why it has earned nearly $40 million dollars already but only cost $12 million to create making it am absolutely HUGE success. No offense to Greg Kinnear but he is not a box office magnet. Never has been. No one in this movie is a box office magnet. So why, on its second weekend of release, was the movie theater I was in packed with people? For the same reason millions of copies of the book have been sold: people want to know if heaven is for real. Which reminds me.

Before I saw the movie I didn’t like the title. Thought it was weak. I like it now. It’s a good title for the movie. It carries with it not only the question “is heaven real” but it carries with it the child-like grammatical abnormality of not only the four year-old who claims to have gone there but of the child-like qualities Jesus said were needed for anyone to “enter” heaven (see Matthew 18:3). Another thing: I am very thankful that TD Jakes and company didn’t promote this movie as a Christian or faith-based movie: they simply made a movie (please take note of this Christian and faith-based movie-makers. EVERY movie is faith-based. The question isn’t whether it’s faith-based; the question is what and/or who’s faith is it based upon. All movie-makers bring their worldview to the table when they make a movie. It’s time for Christians to do the same and not feel this need to brand it. Just make a movie. Everybody else does. Jesus was the greatest storyteller who ever lived. He and His disciples felt no compulsion to qualify His stories as being “faith-based”. Tell your story. Period.)

Now for the few things I didn’t like:

The Trailer: It gives away too much of the film. Sadly, there really aren’t any critical moments in the movie that aren’t in the trailer. There are some surprises but nothing monumental.

Pacing: It lagged in some spots.

Cinematography: It also could be the lighting or overall art direction as well but the overall pallet of the film feels somewhat grey. It very well could be that this was intentional in that Mr. Wallace wanted to juxtapose the brilliance of heaven versus the paleness of earth but, if so, it went afield too far for me in that I left thinking it just wasn’t well lit or framed at times. It certainly wasn’t amateurish: just flat at times.

Universalism/Lack of Biblical Understanding: For a topic as important as the afterlife, I was struck by a few instances of universalism not only in the story on screen but in what I assume is the story in real life. That a pastor would not know Jesus has a horse (see Revelation 19:11) or, more importantly, would not specifically ask a dying man if he’s accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior is disconcerting. This isn’t about needing to see people brow-beaten with religiosity: it’s about wondering what the Wesleyan Church and their pastors believe about salvation (Todd Burpo is a Wesleyan pastor). Maybe the creators of the film made a choice to back away from potentially alienating or offending a lot of people (something I understand and respect) but if this is a true story it needs to be told in truth. So, I have to assume that Wesleyan pastors (or at least this one) do not hold a deep conviction that salvation only comes through Jesus Christ and that hell is for real, too.

Experience Above All: You walk away from “Heaven Is For Real” thinking that these people (or at least Todd Burpo) elevate personal experience above objective absolutes (or, as a pastor, Scripture). In fact, Todd Burpo at one point flat out says, “I see it, so I believe it.” This flies in the face of Jesus’ saying, “Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed” and the Apostle Paul’s saying, “We walk by faith, not by sight”. (see John 20:29, 2 Corinthinas 5:7). Subjective relativism is dangerous and for a faith that is so grounded in objective absolutes (this will come as a big surprise to those who have never investigated Biblical Christianity more thoroughly) it’s surprising that Todd Burpo would struggle with some of the things he struggled with in this movie. It reminds me of the kinds of struggles I heard pastors had with their faith (some even leaving it altogether) after having read or seen “The Da Vinci Code”. After I read that book and saw that movie, I was flabbergasted that its contents so rocked people of the Christian faith; especially pastors. I say that without any judgmentalism or, heaven forbid, spiritual superiority. I say it as a statement based on what I was taught are basic, foundational fundamentals to pastoral ministry, biblical exegesis, and Christian living: no personal experience, however supernatural or unexplainable it may be, trumps Biblical absolutes.

All that being said, there was far more I liked about “Heaven Is For Real” than disliked. I would go see it again today. I would also recommend this movie for audiences of all ages. “Heaven Is For Real” is well written, well acted, well produced, and well done. I hope it will not only inspire more book and ticket sales but conversations…conversations that people obviously want to have about whether or not heaven is for real. But therein lies another double entendre: we may be willing to suspend our disbelief in a movie theater but are we willing to suspend our disbeliefs about what we think does or doesn’t happen after we die?

Should we?

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Rick Segall


One Comment


    Great review!

    “Suspend our disbelief” Spot on!!

    I saw the Burpo family on a talk show. Colton is now 14 and the hosts asked him how much he remembered. While he couldn’t remember every detail, one detail he clearly remembered. The look of heaven. Gave me chills when he described it!

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