This Easter weekend, the based-on-a-true-story movie "Heaven Is for Real" opens in theaters across the country. As the title would imply, and just like the novel and children's book of the same titles, the story focuses on a young boy (Connor Corum) who comes out of emergency surgery claiming that he took a side-trip through heaven and met Jesus (on a multi-colored horse, no less). Greg Kinnear plays his preacher father who must decide how far to spread his son's story in the face of doubters.
The film has a clearly Christian bent to it, but critics say that mainstream audiences could also give the film a shot, praising its production values and fairness to other viewpoints. Read excerpts of reviews from top critics below.
There Are Some Laughs
"This push-and-pull represents the best of 'Heaven Is For Real,' which also has some humorous moments, many coming from Thomas Haden Church as the town banker who can always be relied on for a deadpan remark or two. Wallace — who uses a bright blue palette throughout the film, the better to reflect the preternaturally blue eyes of Connor Corum, who plays Colton — sets up enough events leading to the youngster's experience that alternative explanations are readily available. Once or twice the director succumbs to facile logic and on-the-nose sentimentality, especially in Colton's childish cotton-cloud recollections. But then again, he is a child, and the kitschy staging serves to reinforce the essential tensions that propel the film." — Ann Hornaday, Washington Post
Room For Discussion
"Except that 'Heaven Is for Real" turns out to be about cynicism and doubt for a sizable chunk of its running time — the struggle within those who already believe rather than the conversion of unbelievers. That makes it a surprisingly nuanced entry in the Christian film genre, even if the movie finally and firmly comes down on the side of angels, Day-Glo Elysian Fields, and Christ as nice guy incarnate. The faithful should welcome it warmly. Others may come away unconvinced while appreciating the film's sincerity and lack of anti-secular axes being ground." — Ty Burr, Boston Globe
A Tame Affair
"Preachy and pretty, 'Heaven' is a classy-looking product with a vanilla flavor and a pastel palette. What friction there is occurs mainly among Todd's friends and church board members (led by the reliable Margo Martindale and a subdued Thomas Haden Church), who worry that Todd's public pronouncements will garner a snake-wrangling image for their quiet congregation." — Jeanette Catsoulis, New York Times
A Relatable Tale
"Kinnear's Todd is not just an inaccessible preacher. He's also a volunteer firefighter, coaches high school wrestling and is a garage door repairman. His family is also in debt. Their house, which was offered as "part of his salary," sits near railroad tracks and shakes with every passing train. Thus, many of the Burpo family's struggles mirror those of others in the heartland, and effectively so." — Jessica Herndon, Associated Press
"Heaven Is for Real" is in theaters now.