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Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip To Heaven And Back


Peter T Chattaway
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Well, I guess one thing I'm taking away from this movie is that I need to re-familiarize myself with Narnia. SDG, thanks for clearing that up, you have quite the memory! I wish I had that kind of recall.

Seven kids. Lots of rereadings over the years.

(Although when I re-skimmed through The Last Battle, there is one bear present, who helps fight in the battle, but he dies right away, and is only mentioned a couple times - and he does not converse with Jewel.)

Good catch! I forgot about him.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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FWIW, my 3000+ word blog post, 'How the movie Heaven Is for Real contradicts the book'. Includes excerpts from the book (which I bought for 99 cents on Google Play a year or two ago; and can I just say how much I *love* the ability to search through the text of the book on that app?) and transcriptions of certain key scenes from the film (and can I just say how much I *love* being able to screen films on my laptop, instead of seeing them in theatres, so that I can go back and check stuff like this?).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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A commenter at my blog says the story about the lion, the bear and the unicorn comes from Of Lions and Unicorns, presumably the book by Michael Morpugo. Anyone know anything about this?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Saw this film on Monday with my girlfriend. Wasn't expecting to like it. Came out of it thinking it a mostly benign "nice story" the kind of which I'd hear from people at the MB church I used to go to. The things that bothered me about it were how non-Christian the descriptions of heaven were, how it's depiction of a near-death experience with an overwhelming sense of calm and images of heaven that our populate culture has beaten into our minds speaks to any generalized new-age views of the afterlife. No one goes to hell. Heaven is all vanilla and smiles. There is nothing in this film that speaks to Christian theology. None of the descriptions of heaven or why people go there has anything to do with the Bible. It's all just people wanting to feel nice about things being alright in the afterlife.

But then I saw GOD'S NOT DEAD today, and boy oh boy, do I like this more in retrospect. While I totally agree that that film at least has the authenticity of how evangelicals speak and the references/arguments they make, it was so hateful, I wanted to walk out of the film multiple times. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL at least is well made and well acted. It's watered down to an indistinct blandness to be sure, but Greg Kinnear is earnest as Todd Burpo and the scene in the hospital where Todd and his wife are trying to maintain control while Colton is in surgery is affecting. And it's a very well shot film too. I was expecting Lifetime movie over-the-shoulder coverage for the whole film, but instead the shots seemed to have weight behind them and it made Nebraska gorgeous. It's a weird thing to focus on, but having a movie like this be genuinely beautiful in its imagery (aside from any views of heaven) and actually show some artistry in the shot composition was a nice surprise.

"Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film." - Werner Herzog

3brothersfilm.com

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Aren Bergstrom wrote:
: . . . and it made Nebraska gorgeous.

 

This is very true. Lots of bright blue sky and bright green plants (grass, and maybe other things too? memory's fading already).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Aren Bergstrom wrote:

: . . . and it made Nebraska gorgeous.

 

This is very true. Lots of bright blue sky and bright green plants (grass, and maybe other things too? memory's fading already).

 

We do all know that the way it made Nebraska gorgeous was by shooting in Winnipeg, right?

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kenmorefield wrote:
: We do all know that the way it made Nebraska gorgeous was by shooting in Winnipeg, right?

 

Leave it to the American to bring that up. :)

 

I was actually wondering if they might have shot any of the wider exterior vistas in Nebraska while leaving all the interiors and small-town stuff to Winnipeg. Plenty of films that are shot in Canada have some token establishing shots and whatnot filmed in the U.S. or Europe or Asia or wherever.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I never heard of them filming landscape outside of Winnipeg, but I do know some of the extras on the film and maybe I could ask them next time I see them.  Winnipeg's a bit of a transitional area when it comes to topography.  If one was to go south of the city in the summer, or a bit to the West, they would find a region that is similar to Nebraska (at least from my memory of being there as a teen), but if they were to head a couple of hours East they'd end up in the beginnings of the Canadian Shield.  There was a T.V. show (Falcon Beach) shot an hour or so North of Winnipeg where Grand Beach on Lake Winnipeg passed as a resort.  The exchange district of the city's downtown has been used to represent old Chicago.  Much of Shall We Dance was film there amongst various parts of other films.  There has been a lot more film done in the area over the last few years, largely because Manitoba has the best tax credits in Canada right now.  

 

FWIW.  When I was talking with the extras I know about this shoot, one guy mentioned what a great atmosphere it was on set.

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But then I saw GOD'S NOT DEAD today, and boy oh boy, do I like this more in retrospect. While I totally agree that that film at least has the authenticity of how evangelicals speak and the references/arguments they make, it was so hateful, I wanted to walk out of the film multiple times. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL at least is well made and well acted. It's watered down to an indistinct blandness to be sure, but Greg Kinnear is earnest as Todd Burpo and the scene in the hospital where Todd and his wife are trying to maintain control while Colton is in surgery is affecting. And it's a very well shot film too. I was expecting Lifetime movie over-the-shoulder coverage for the whole film, but instead the shots seemed to have weight behind them and it made Nebraska gorgeous. It's a weird thing to focus on, but having a movie like this be genuinely beautiful in its imagery (aside from any views of heaven) and actually show some artistry in the shot composition was a nice surprise.

 

I'm sure it was better shot than God's Not Dead, but the shot composition and imagery bugged me throughout. Yeah, the scenery looked nice (in fact, it looked a lot better than how I remember Winnipeg/Manitoba) but the actual framing and composition was incoherent as a whole. And as far as imagery, I was a bit nonplussed at the cross imagery in the birdfeeder(or scarecrow?) that Colton stares at outside. Colton didn't see the cross in heaven, he saw Jesus - so why is he transfixed by a cross-like birdfeeder? It seemed forced. The butterfly scenes put me off too - the naturalistic close ups didn't fit the rest of the movie. And while the hospital scene had some emotional weight, don't get me started on the slow motion spiderman figure falling - apart from the interpretation of heaven, that's the scene that jarred me the most. And I'm glad you added "aside from any views of heaven" - because the few minutes we see of Colton in heaven are when the movie lost me. Worst moment by far.

 

But perhaps I'm being too harsh (and again, I haven't seen any recent duds like God's Not Dead to compare it to). I can definitely see how it is an improvement to have some semblance of shot behind the camerawork, and it's a step in the right direction.

 

A commenter at my blog says the story about the lion, the bear and the unicorn comes from Of Lions and Unicorns, presumably the book by Michael Morpugo. Anyone know anything about this?

 

I didn't find anything resembling the story from the movie, but I only spent a few minutes googling various keywords with Morpugo's name, and I haven't actually read anything by him, so I can't really say. But I'm very curious to now find and read that original story. However I still think that the similarities are close enough to warrant describing it as Narnia-esque, regardless of whether or not it's based on another author's story.

"What's prayer? It's shooting shafts in the dark." -- Frederick Buechner, Godric

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I didn't know it was filmed in Winnipeg. Huh. Well, wherever they filmed it, it looked very nice.

 

 

I'm sure it was better shot than God's Not Dead, but the shot composition and imagery bugged me throughout. Yeah, the scenery looked nice (in fact, it looked a lot better than how I remember Winnipeg/Manitoba) but the actual framing and composition was incoherent as a whole. And as far as imagery, I was a bit nonplussed at the cross imagery in the birdfeeder(or scarecrow?) that Colton stares at outside. Colton didn't see the cross in heaven, he saw Jesus - so why is he transfixed by a cross-like birdfeeder? It seemed forced. The butterfly scenes put me off too - the naturalistic close ups didn't fit the rest of the movie. And while the hospital scene had some emotional weight, don't get me started on the slow motion spiderman figure falling - apart from the interpretation of heaven, that's the scene that jarred me the most. And I'm glad you added "aside from any views of heaven" - because the few minutes we see of Colton in heaven are when the movie lost me. Worst moment by far.

 

 

I think it's the mere fact that it wasn't shot/reverse-shot like a sitcom that surprised me. I really didn't think that this film would have any consideration behind the camera work, so when it seemed to be lit nicely and have reasons behind shot choices (even overwrought reasons), it did a lot to undo some of my annoyance. The film's themes and theology may have been watered down to appeal to the lowest common denominator, I was glad to see that the camerawork wasn't of the same indistinct blandness.

But yes, the Spider-man falling was terrible. And Colton really creeped me out. I'm thinking of the scene where Todd is looking for a photo of his grandfather and Colton comes down the hall like Nosferatu creeping on his victim. After the movie I mentioned that Colton would make a very good horror film villain.

"Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film." - Werner Herzog

3brothersfilm.com

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FWIW, I re-watched the end credits and there are several references to Winnipeg and/or Manitoba, but none whatsoever to Nebraska. So I guess that means they might not have even had any second-unit footage there?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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FWIW, I re-watched the end credits and there are several references to Winnipeg and/or Manitoba, but none whatsoever to Nebraska. So I guess that means they might not have even had any second-unit footage there?

 

I'm traveling so I don't have my notes in front of me, but my recollection from Wallace and others interviewed was that the exterior footage was all from locations in the countryside just outside of Winnipeg.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Finally saw this.  The locations are indeed the prairie part of Manitoba through and through, in every way.  Even the general vibe of the culture, for instance the baseball game, is basically Manitoban.  Most of the town shots (if not all) came from a town just North of Winnipeg called Selkirk.  The church in the film is actually a Catholic church with the Catholic crucifix changed to a Protestant cross.  My wife belonged to that church as a child (before converting to Protestantism) and I've been to funerals there.

 

 

Peter T Chattaway said:

 

:Oh, and then there's the whole problem of assuming that people "go to heaven" when they die, period.

 

 

This was my main beef with the film.  It seemed to have a hint of the New Age in it.  Not that it was completely void of serious Christian thought, but that hint was still there.  

Edited by Attica
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My biggest beef with the film was that the choir had an acoustic guitarist as one of their members, and they never let him play.  He's just standing there, ready to do something, and yet they just won't let him. 

 

Rascals.

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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  • 1 month later...

Got a review copy of the Blu-Ray yesterday. I was amused to see that it begins with trailers for four faith-based films (When the Game Stands Tall, Moms' Night Out, Courageous and Soul Surfer, all of which were co-produced by Sony's Affirm Films division) and... The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Which makes perfect sense, if you've seen Heaven Is for Real or read the book on which it is based. (I quote from page 33: "Norma stopped by with Colton's favorite toy, his Spider-Man action figure." The bulk of the book takes place in 2003, i.e. one year after the first Sam Raimi film.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Got a free DVD giveaway going at my blog with only like four entries, so if you are longing to have this DVD, your odds aren't bad...drawing is tomorrow.

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Just a DVD? Not the Blu-Ray which has two exclusive featurettes? :)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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