Yes, there are angels and clouds and a Jesus who looks like Kenny Loggins in a hotel bathrobe. As you might fear, Heaven Is for Real's literalization of a child's operating-table glimpse of heaven greatly cheapens the miracle of what our brains do with trauma — the afterlife here is a skyscape/rec center infinitely less radiant than the film's real-world Nebraska, shot with honeyed-over, Chamber of Commerce-pleasing light by Dances with Wolves cinematographer Dean Semler. Based on Todd Burpo's bestseller about his son's account of a sit-down with Jesus, the film offers a kid's account of heaven, one that, as skeptics in the movie point out, draws directly upon the very images of heaven that kid has been fed his entire life: His dad (Greg Kinnear) is a preacher; his mom (Kelly Reilly) reads Narnia to him.
Kinnear's preacher dad, one of those Dockers-sporting new-gospel ministers most comfortable in churches that look like refurbished carpet stores, spends much of the film agonizing over whether or not to believe that young Colton got a tour of the afterlife conducted by Jesus himself. It's the kid's knowledge of a miscarriage that finally convinces the family that the story is true, and that it must be shared with the world. (The family's financial travails prove a key plot point, too, but it's hard to invest in the bill-paying drama of characters based on real people who sold their story to the movies.)
Whatever you believe, if even the kid's parents couldn't take it on faith until given extraordinary evidence, it seems unfair to ask the rest of us to just accept their word for it.
Randall WallaceGreg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Connor CorumTodd BurpoSony Pictures