Two months ago, a friend of mine gave me a copy of Rev. Todd Burpo's book, Heaven Is For Real, published in 2010, based on the story of the pastor's son, Colton, who inexplicably went to Heaven while undergoing emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix.
Four years later, the book is now a movie, a brilliant adaptation that may be a wee bit padded out for the sake of creating drama.
Burpo (Greg Kinnear, Rake) is also a volunteer fireman in his hometown of Imperial, Nebraska, and is briefly shown as a coach with the high school wrestling team. His wife is in charge of their church's music ministry. Their faith is shaken, then tested, when 4 year old Colton (Connor Corum) tells them about his trip to Heaven and meeting Jesus.
Predictably, there is also derision and ridicule. Colton's sister, Cassie, goes on the defensive during recess one day when two boys tease her about Colton. The end result? She drops them both with punches to the nose. As for the pastor, news of his son's "miraculous" recovery spreads, causing the congregation to question whether Rev. Burpo can continue. Bank president Jay Wikins (Thomas Haden Church, ex-Wings, and the only other "name" in the cast) is the pastor's best friend who tries to counsel Rev. Burpo.
Even though Rake, a Fox mid-season replacement series, appears to be headed for the gas chamber (Kinnear plays a lawyer), Kinnear is absolutely brilliant as Todd Burpo. Connor Corum, a newcomer, has a good future in front of him.
Don't believe me? Scope the trailer:
"The Giver" (August 15): Based on a children's book, and starring Jeff Bridges & Meryl Streep in a tale of a seemingly perfect world that really isn't.
"Million Dollar Arm" (May 16): Jon Hamm (Mad Men) is a down-on-his-luck sports agent who takes a chance on signing the first major league baseball player from India. Based on a true story.
"How to Train Your Dragon 2": If you've been following the Dragons cartoons on Cartoon Network, you can figure those shows serve as a bridge between films.
"Mom's Night Out": At first glance, I thought this was the remake of "Adventures in Babysitting", but it isn't. Cast includes Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton, and country singer Trace Adkins----as a biker with a heart of gold.
"When The Game Stands Tall" (August): Equal parts "Friday Night Lights", "Facing the Giants", and maybe "Remember the Titans". A high school football team's winning streak ends, and tragedy follows, leading to a crisis of faith.