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All That Heaven Allows

Allen Fraser/TriStar Pictures

Heaven Is for Real (2014)

Based on the Rev. Todd Burpo’s account of son Colton’s near-death experience at age three, “Heaven Is for Real” climbed The New York Times best-seller list in 2010 and has now become a motion-picture event.

Colton (Connor Corum) claims to have left his body, gone to heaven and met rainbow-colored horses, his miscarried sister and even the Lord Jesus himself all while supine on the operating table with a ruptured appendix. The enterprising Pastor Burpo (Greg Kinnear) has of course seized the godsend and turned it not only into sermon anecdotes but also a best seller. But in the telling, he would very much like to convince us that he too was a skeptic and that Colton’s anesthetics-induced delirium actually made him question his own beliefs.

Projecting his own doubts might help disarm the naysayers, or so Pastor Burpo thought. He goes as far as to insinuate that the ensuing national media circus has been unwanted, and even his own congregation has treated Colton as a freak show. If Pastor Burpo were that concerned about Colton’s privacy and well-being in the first place, why write a book and sell the movie rights?

Mr. Kinnear, Kelly Reilly (as the pastor’s wife, Sonja) and director Randall Wallace have done a credible job on the material. They make the film easier for viewers to suspend disbelief than most Christian-themed movies. “Heaven Is for Real” nevertheless feels like something a televangelist has spun for maximum dramatic effect to use as a parable. It never strays far from preaching, leaving viewers no choice but to see Pastor Burpo primarily as an unreliable narrator.


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