Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Heaven is for Real movie is simple and inspiring

Movie Title:   Heaven Is for Real
PG, 1 hour 40 minutes

Grade:   B

In a Nutshell:  This is a simple movie with a simple message, and yet it is very powerful.  Perfectly timed for Easter, this faith-building film is based on the New York Times best-selling book Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo, the father of a boy who saw heaven during a hospital operation when he was only four years old.

I heard a recent interview with the “real” Colton and his dad on the radio.  Colton is now a teenager.  He continues to share his simple message that heaven IS for real. 

I thought it was interesting that Colton’s parents (in real life) had such a hard time believing their son, especially considering Todd Burpo was a pastor and his wife was a believer.  I suppose it’s easy to believe IN Jesus Christ, but harder to believe Jesus.  What this film does well is get Christians to really think through what they believe, rather than try to convince non-Christians to believe.

Uplifting theme:   
  • Heaven is real.
  • God is real.
  • We live after this life.
  • When Todd Burpo gave his final sermon at the end of the movie at church, the notes that he used were only a few bullet points: “Only faith heals wounds” and “God is love.”

Things I liked:
  • I’ve always loved Thomas Haden Church ever since he was a young actor in the old TV show WINGS - Seasons 1 & 2
  • Greg Kinnear always gives a solid, charming performance.
  • The Burpo’s friend, Nancy Rawling, had a beautiful indoor garden filled with flowers and lovely plants.  Nancy is played by Margo Martindale, who always does a great job as a believable character.  I loved the conversation Nancy and Todd had at the cemetery about their sons.  It was truly touching and profound.
  • Connor Corum, who played the young Colton Burpo, did a fantastic job and was absolutely adorable.  He has a bright future in Hollywood.
  • I loved the scene when Colton casually mentions to his mother that he saw his unborn sister in heaven.  Tears streamed down the mothers face, as well as mine.  I had several miscarriages and shared the pain and sorrow that Sonja Burpo felt.  My heart ached for my little unborn babies.  After my first miscarriage, I found a book that really helped my heart to heal.  The author (Sarah Hinze) and I are now Facebook friends!  It’s called Life Before Life : A Collection of Mothers’ Experiences With Their Pre-born Children. Since then, Sarah has written several other books about life before life that are very inspiring.  I have read many life after life books based on people’s near death experiences, but Sarah’s books take us on a journey in the opposite direction that provide insights that teach us that this mortal life is only a part of the whole story. 
  • The movie is about what Colton saw in heaven, but it also illustrates how precious this time on earth is.

Things I didn’t like:
  • I was proud of the child actors for holding that tarantula, but I certainly wouldn’t do that for a sticker!  EEK!
  • I think British actress Kelly Reilly is so beautiful and feminine, but her singing voice didn’t add anything, unless director Randall Wallace was going for a home-towny feel for the church with small talent, but big heart.
  • David Blaustein from ABC News Radio recently said about the movie “The earnest performances aren’t enough to elevate the vanilla narrative from a faith-based film that will only preach to the choir.”  While I tend to agree, the movie still made me cry and reflect on the wonder of life and death.

Inspiring lines:
  • “If heaven is for real, wouldn’t we all live different lives?” – Todd Burpo
  • Did Colton go to heaven?  Yes.  He saw the heaven Jesus wanted him to see.” – Todd Burpo
  • “God crushed my pride and opened my heart to love and all I have to do.  The one thing love requires is to let others know they’re not alone.”  - Todd Burpo
  • “You don’t have to save the world, Todd.  I believe that’s already been done.” – Nancy Rawling
  • Todd Burpo (played by Greg Kinnear) explains to his son that some people might be afraid of what Colton said he saw in heaven.  “What are they afraid of?” asks the innocent Colton.  His dad replies “That there might be a heaven or that there might not be.”
  • Colton’s sister punched a kid at school who was making fun of her brother .  Her parents encouraged her to be more Christian and “turn the other cheek.”  Cassie says “I DID turn his other cheek when I hit him.”

Things to look for:
  • Every time there is a scene that takes place in the church, blue is a prominent color.  Of course, the wall behind the podium is blue, but so is the pastor’s shirt, the children’s choir bows, and many of the other people’s clothing.  I suppose director Randall Wallace wanted to use blue to depict a calming, heavenly color.
  • I loved the cool birdhouse in their yard and the view from their home in the heartland of Nebraska.

Things we learn about heaven through Colton’s experience:
  • "Jesus has a horse."
  • Angels have a sense of humor and laugh.
  • "In heaven, everybody’s young"
  • "Nobody wears glasses in heaven."
  • People are always singing in heaven.
  • You feel love and peace.

Tips for parents:  This movie is very family-friendly and a safe place to begin a discussion about death with your children.
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