For a Movie about Heaven, 90 Minutes is Surprisingly Earthbound
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2015 10 Sep
DVD Release Date: December 1, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: September 11, 2015
Rating: PG-13 (for intense accident and injury images)
Run Time: 121 min.
Director: Michael Polish
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Kate Bosworth, Dwight Yoakam, Michael W. Smith, Jason Kennedy, Elizabeth Hunter, Hudson Meek, Bobby Batson, David Clyde Carr, Catherine Carlen, Gianna Simone, Michael Harding, Rhoda Griffis, Ashley Bratcher, Deena Beasley, Vanessa Cloke, Jasper Polish
Last year's big-screen adaptation of Heaven is for Real was given the full-scale Hollywood treatment, and was widely criticized by the faithful for deviating too far from Todd Burpo's book. 90 Minutes in Heaven, similarly based on a New York Times chart-topper, is in many ways the polar opposite. While 90 Minutes features a couple of recognizable names in leading roles, it's a much smaller and decidedly less glossy production that mirrors its source material beat for beat.
But not all books, popular or otherwise, make for very good movies, and 90 Minutes in Heaven falls squarely into the not-cinema-ready category. It's not that the story itself isn't intriguing; it's not every day that a man is declared dead after a very serious car accident, claims to have seen heaven and returns to Earth an hour-and-a-half later. But one of the problems with 90 Minutes is that for a movie with heaven in the title, it's surprisingly earthbound.
Before their lives change—and that’s quite the understatement—Pastor Don (Hayden Christensen, best known as Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars episodes II and III) and his wife Eva Piper (Kate Bosworth, Superman Returns) are just your average family in ministry. Parents to twin boys and a pre-teen daughter, they lead a simple life in small-town Texas. The biggest things happening in their world are their daughter's sudden need to drink coffee (a reminder of how quickly she's growing up) and that Don is thinking of branching out and planting his own church.
With the support of Eva and his pastoral mentor, that dream seems well within reach for Don until the aforementioned collision with a semi. After regaining consciousness, Don is left with a veritable laundry list of painful physical challenges that required no less than 34 operations. Despite his faith in God, the love of his family and dedicated prayer support from across the globe, his new normal is so challenging that it causes Don to wonder why God bothered allowing him to live at all... especially in light of his glimpse of heaven.
One positive way that 90 Minutes in Heaven manages to separate itself from other films in the faith-based crowd is that it doesn't sugarcoat how difficult a situation like Don's is. Rather than wrapping up hardships and struggles in the time it takes to listen to your average contemporary Christian song, the script here doesn't shy away from the more uncomfortable realities. Whether it's Don’s emotional withdrawal from the very people cheering him on, Eva's understandable frustration with Don's increasingly dour attitude or the questions of how a person of faith responds to doubt, the writers dig fairly deep.
But sadly, "fairly deep" is as thought-provoking as 90 Minutes in Heaven gets. The lack of focused storytelling, blasé direction from the usually-reliable Michael Polish (The Astronaut Farmer) and subpar acting throughout are factors even more detrimental than Christensen and Bosworth's terrible Southern accents. What's more, the big reveal promised in the title is basically buried until the film's final 25 minutes.
With the majority of screen time dedicated to the medical minutiae involved with Don’s recovery, 90 Minutes in Heaven plods along at a snail's pace, and, go figure, doesn't actually have much to say about heaven—or even Don's account of it. By the time Don gets around to telling a trusted friend (E! News reporter Jason Kennedy) and, eventually, his wife, about what he saw, the actors seem to have run out of emotional steam. They just sort of nod and go with it like robots, and not because they think what Don's saying is crazy. It's just understood that now he's supposed to go share his story—that all his suffering wasn't without a specific purpose. It's rather jolting just how abruptly it all goes down.
I suppose it's a relief that heaven didn't turn out to be all candy-colored as in Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones. Nor is it the head-scratcher Colton Burpo describes in Heaven is for Real. There's not much said about heaven in the Bible, and there's definitely something to be said for the miraculous remaining mysterious. But for a story and title so heavenly focused, it's still disappointing when the main topic of conversation is cut shockingly short.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Drugs/Alcohol: Pain medication is administered in several scenes. Reference to a Budweiser truck.
- Language/Profanity: None
- Sex/Nudity: A married couple shares a couple of kisses. They also joke about "owing" each other since Don and Eva had been too busy for intimacy before the accident—and were obviously unable to after the accident because of Don's physical condition.
- Violence/Thematic Material: Don's car accident, a rather grisly collision with a semi, is shown on several occasions. Don's body is shown being removed from his vehicle—and it's quite bloody. A pastor is warned about the gruesome nature of the accident scene. Several hospital scenes show Don's extensive injuries and very bumpy road to recovery. Some of the rehab scenes, in particular, are painful to watch.
Publication date: September 10, 2015