Heaven is for Real (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
July 18, 2014 by Dennis Amith
There is no doubt that “Heaven is for Real” is a film not for everyone. There will be some who will be touched, there will be some who may have problems with the film but for those with an open mind and for those who are Christians will no doubt enjoy or become fascinated by the story of the Burpo family and be touched by its spiritual message. Recommended!
© 2014 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Heaven is for Real
FILM RELEASE: 2014
DURATION: 99 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1, English, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Descriptive Track, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese (Cantonese), Chinese Mandarin, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Spanish, Thai
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: PG (Thematic Material Including Some Medical Situations)
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Directed by Randall Wallace
Based on the Screenplay by Randall Wallace and Chris Parker
Based on the Book “Heaven is for Real” by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent
Produced by T.D. Jakes, Joe Roth
Co-Producer: Andrw Wallace, Kim H. Winther
Executive Producer: Sue Baden-Powell, Sam Mercer, Derrick Williams
Music by Nick Glennie-Smith
Cinematography by Dean Semler
Edited by John Wright
Casting by Sheila Jaffe
Production Design by Arvinder Grewal
Art Direction by Larry Spittle
Costume Design by Michael T. Boyd
Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo
Kelly Reilly as Sonja Burpo
Thomas Haden Church as Jay Wilkins
Connor Corum as Colton Burpo
Lana Styles as Cassie Burpo
Margo Martindale as Nancy Rawling
Based on the #1 New York Times best-selling book, Heaven is for Real recounts the true story of a small-town father who must find the courage and conviction to share his son’s extraordinary, life-changing experience with the world. Starring Academy Award® nominee Greg Kinnear (Best Supporting Actor, As Good As It Gets, 1997) as Todd Burpo, the real-life father whose son Colton claims to have visited Heaven during a near death experience. Colton shares the details of his amazing journey with childlike innocence and speaks matter-of-factly about things that happened before his birth … things he couldn’t possibly know.
In 2010, the Christian book “Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back” would become a New York Times Best Seller.
Based on a true story about the Burpo family and their then-four-year-old son Colton having a near-death experience. The book would receive a film adaptation and would be directed by Randall Wallace (“Braveheart”, “Pearl Harbor” and “We Were Soldiers”) and would star Greg Kinnear (“As Good As It Gets”, “You’ve Got Mail”), Thomas Haden Church (“Sideways”, “Spider-Man 3”, “Wings”), Margo Martindale (“Million Dollar Baby”, “Orphan”, “The Hours”), Kelly Reilly (“Sherlock Holmes”, “Flight”, “Sherlock Holmes: Games of Shadows”), Lane Styles and Connor Corum.
“Heaven is for Real” is set in Imperial, Nebraska and revolves around the pastor Todd Burpo (portrayed by Greg Kinnear) and his wife Sonja (portrayed by Kelly Reilly).
A loving family with two children, Cassie and Colton.
After Todd suffers a broken leg during a softball match and then suffering kidney stones, to help deal with Todd’s rehabilitation, the family goes to Denver for family time.
But not long after coming back home, both children are sick and while Cassie gets over her illness, Colton suffers a ruptured appendix and is rushed to the emergency room. And while things are not going well, he eventually survives and begins opening up with his father of his near-death experience of watching doctors work on his body, seeing his father agonize in one room, while his mother is another room calling up friends to pray for them.
But when Colton starts to give details that has happened while he was being operated on and details of going to heaven, hearing angels sing and meeting Jesus and other family members with details that Colton couldn’t possibly know. How will his family approach Colton?
And what happens when his story is told to the church congregation and is featured in the local news?
“Heaven is for Real” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Picture quality is fantastic as indoor and outdoor show great detail. Colors are bold and vibrant. Skin tones are natural throughout the film and black levels are accurate. I didn’t notice any artifacts, banding or any problematic issues during my viewing. “Heaven is for Real” looks fantastic on Blu-ray.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Heaven is for Real” is primarily a dialogue driven film but the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack does shows moments of surround channel use. From church ambiance, wind blowing things over, fire engine sirens and more. But for a film like this, you expect a front and center channel soundtrack.
Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH, Chinese (Cantones and Mandarin), French, Indoensian/Bahasa, Korean, Spanish and Thai.
“Heaven is for Real” features the following special features:
- Deleted Scenes – (8:23) Featuring six deleted scenes
- The Making of Heaven is for Real – (13:08) The making of the film from casting and shooting the Heaven scenes.
- Colton Goes to Heaven – (4:17) A short featurette featuring the real Burpo family.
- Creating Heaven – (4:24) The challenges of creating the Heaven sequences and the ideas and approach of creating the scene.
“Heaven is for Real” was a book that had its fair share of criticism from Christians but it also was a book that was a bestseller and a Christian book that will no doubt be subjective for its reader.
The same can be said for the film, it’s subjective to the viewer.
And while the film is not a Christian film per se, it does have religious themes that explore heaven through the eyes of a four-year-old.
Colton tells his father he went to heaven, how beautiful heaven is and how Jesus looks and the people he met in Heaven including family members who have passed away.
There are details that Colton couldn’t have known but knows from his visit to Heaven.
The problem is that Christians have their own perception of what heaven should be. And what he saw in heaven despite not being listed as near-death.
For Pastor Todd Burpo, the whole concept of Heaven and what his child has been experiencing is major concern for him. Is he telling the truth? And does Colton’s revelations challenge his father’s belief.
What we do see is that Todd becomes heavily interested in his son’s near-death experience, while his wife Sonja is worried about how they can pay off bills and that perhaps its their son’s imagination or combination of things he saw that has crafted his image of Heaven.
“Heaven is for Real” is able to touch upon the challenges that the family faces, how the church board reacts to Todd and his son being featured in the news but whether one can accept it.
Do babies that die due to a miscarriage or die in a womb, grow in Heaven? I personally found this to be a fascinating but also controversial for the film.
If anything, in reality, the concept of Heaven is not always clear to people and there are interpretations of what Heaven should be and how it should be like?
From the eyes of an innocent four-year-old, Colton talks about angels singing, seeing Jesus’ horse and the color of rainbows and more. But for those who have their ideas set of what Heaven should be and what kind of paradise they expect or don’t expect, there will always be opinions that clash with other beliefs.
I do like how the film showcases the Burpo family, especially Todd and Sonja as a loving couple, a normal couple who drop sexual hints and flirt with each other but for those expecting a santized Christian film where things like this should not be featured, are also going to have problems with this film.
But is this a religious film? It’s not a film about religious preaching, it’s not a film that tries to stuff religion in your face but there is religion as the protagonist is a pastor and how his son’s experience starts to change him and his approach to his work in church and how his fellow congregation start to reach, good or bad. But there is a spiritual message to this film and what young Colton was able to experience, you can either believe or don’t believe.
As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality of this film is magnificent and the lossless audio quality is what I expected from this film and it being heavily center and front-channel driven. There are a few special features included as well.
Overall, “Heaven is for Real” is a fascinating film that is entertaining and enjoyable if you grew up with a Christian upbringing. Colton’s experience is unexplainable but for those who believe in God, you can take this experience as you see fit, the Burpo family experienced it with their son and there are others who have had experiences that are unexplained but if you believe in God, even in the Bible, things happen but it’s God’s way of showing a person his way or trying to reach out to others and show the power of faith and love.
There is no doubt that “Heaven is for Real” is a film not for everyone. There will be some who will be touched, there will be some who may have problems with the film but for those with an open mind and for those who are Christians will no doubt enjoy or become fascinated by the story of the Burpo family and be touched by its spiritual message.
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