This week, I attended an advanced movie screening of “Heaven Is For Real,” which opens in theaters April 16th. Based on the bestselling book, Heaven Is For Real, the movie chronicles young Colton Burpo’s near-death experience and his subsequent “account” of a journey into heaven. The official movie trailer is below.
Two caveats…. First, having never read the book, I can’t offer an analysis of how well the movie portrayed the book. Second, I am evaluating this movie from an entertainment standpoint and not a theological one. Although I have definite opinions in this area, my goal is to rate this movie’s value as family entertainment. In this arena, I give the movie an A. Any parent can allow their children to watch this movie without fear that they will be exposed to any offensive elements.
Rated PG for “thematic material including some medical situations,” this movie contains several scenes involving sickness and extreme pain. These are brief and unlikely to disturb any but the youngest viewers. Other scenes such as a schoolyard fight, a young child in a hospital bed with cancer, and a dying elderly man–are brief but powerful reminders of how life is comprised of both good and bad. Sickness and health. Joy and pain. Living and dying. Such elements work to juxtapose temporal life with eternal life and point to the truth that something lies beyond.
The Burpo family has everything that money can’t buy–and very little of what it can. Colton and his sister have parents who love God, each other, their children, and their friends. The church is the center of their lives, and they thrive by leading the church and living “in community” with its members.
On the other hand, finances are a continual struggle. Todd Burpo works several jobs to make ends meet but can’t seem to climb out of the hole. Nontheless, life is good, and in most cases normal, for the Burpos until Colton recovers from an almost fatal attack of appendicitis. Life as the Burpo’s know it will never be the same.
In the weeks and months following his recovery, Colton begins to describe a journey into Heaven and a visit with Jesus Himself. Colton’s description comes in childlike snippets, typical of a three-year-old, that are pieced together by his parents. The bulk of this movie lends itself to supporting the validity of this journey and showing the effect it had upon the church and members of the community.
The acting in the movie is superb. Greg Kinnear and Kelly Reilly do a standout job as Todd and Sonja Burpo, and Connor Corum is an engaging and adorable representation of young Colton Burpo. The Burpo family is painted in a very realistic but endearing light, which is much appreciated by those of us who dislike Hollywood’s often condescending portrayal of Christians.
My takeaway: This movie can serve as a springboard for real and needed discussion about life, death, and eternity. For Christians, we clearly know where to look to find the real truth about Heaven–the Bible. Nontheless, whether this experience is “true” or not isn’t something I feel compelled to debate. As a Christian, I am thrilled any time a movie is made that introduces a topic that leads to a discussion about faith, spirituality, and Christianity.
The timing of this movie’s release just before Easter is no accident and is intended to draw the hearts of viewers into deeper questions of faith. In my opinion, this movie can serve as a catalyst for discussion about eternity and give Christians an opportunity to teach the real truth about Heaven, hell, and the only One to whom we can look for the better of the two realities.
For more on the movie, visit the Heaven Is For Real official website.