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90 Minutes in Heaven - Movie Review

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90 Minutes in Heaven - Movie Review

1 star

Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, 90 Minutes in Heaven tells the miraculous story of Don Piper (Hayden Christensen), a church pastor who died January 18, 1989 in a horrific automobile accident when a tractor-trailer rig smashes into his car. Unofficially declared dead by first responders on the scene, Piper’s body lay beneath a tarp for the titular amount of time awaiting the coroner’s arrival as his soul experiences an overwhelming sense of joy, love, and peace.

Then, Piper is suddenly and miraculously brought back to life after 90 minutes (though more likely he should never have been declared dead in the first place) by the prayers of another pastor who happened upon the scene. But rather than harbor feelings of thanks and gratitude for having been saved, Piper instead wishes that the miracle had never happened.

With a heavenly bliss replaced by excruciating pain, misery, and an arduous recovery, Piper wishes he would not have been saved. But he was, and subsequently becomes extremely bitter, angry, and even sometimes hateful to those around him as he struggles with the debilitating injuries and a deep depression.

And that’s where the film, written and directed by Michael Polish, makes a bad turn. What was intended to be a family’s inspiring story of perseverance and overcoming the challenges of life, turns into an agonizingly detailed two hours of what it’s like to be in a hospital for nearly a year.

A huge portion of the film is a monotonous slog that bogs down in the minutiae of Piper’s hospital stay and subsequent home hospice care, including the painful-looking contraptions affixed to his arm and leg to help bones heal. All the while, he lays around, snipes and grouses at those who love him, neither recognizing nor acknowledging the love and dedication of those who take care of him, including his wife (Kate Bosworth) and children. We get it. It was a painful and difficult journey to recovery for you. Doesn’t mean we want to see the entire thing. And no, the soaring score does nothing to emphasize the drama. It just cheapens the entire experience.

Naturally, the extended pain and misery is a device to set up the film’s hook that comes way too late and was already revealed in an opening flash-forward. Near the end of Piper’s recovery (at about the film’s two-third mark), he reveals to a colleague that after the crash, he visited heaven (which was probably just a temporary hallucinatory state) and that the experience made his painful rehabilitation even more difficult to endure.

As the visuals depict Piper’s heavenly journey, Christensen’s horrid southern accent runs over the proceedings that are certain to play perfectly into its built-in Christian audience. Hazy, golden-hued light effects, puffy clouds, and even the familiar pearlescent gates provide the backdrop as the wide-smiled “Greeting Committee” of dead friends, family, and loved ones parades by. The only thing missing is St. Peter at a podium, quill pen in hand checking his list. Regardless, the scene makes it difficult to believe in what Piper saw and more as if it were just a wishful hallucination of what he wanted to see.

The acting in 90 Minutes in Heaven is nothing short of atrocious. In what feels like an attempt at squeaky-clean Leave it to Beaver wholesomeness, characters appear in tight face shots as tears roll down their cheeks. They clutch their faces in horror at Piper’s injuries, quickly turn from the camera, and exit the scene. Bosworth is clearly at a loss here. She reads her lines with a high school drama class stiltedness as does Christensen whose drawl oozes from behind a cheesy wisp of a mustache. The B-list cast struggling with B-movie dialogue is an embarrassing sight. Truly painful stuff to watch.

In a welcome bit of comic relief amongst the festering pool of misery is an all-too-brief appearance by Dwight Yoakum as a cowboy-hat-wearing, ambulance-chasing lawyer. But sadly, he disappears as quickly as he came.

It’s not lost on me that 90 Minutes in Heaven is a critic-proof piece of faith-based entertainment that will likely find broad appeal with with its intended audience on a spiritual level. However, that fact should never mask the reality that this is a poorly-written, horribly-acted, ineptly-executed adaptation of a highly successful book that sold over 7 million copies and was translated into 46 languages. This thing is dead. Get the defibrillator paddles, stat! Clear!

90 Minutes in Heaven - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense accident and injury images
121 mins
: Michael Polish
Michael Polish
Kate Bosworth, Hayden Christensen, Hudson Meek
: Drama
Hope lives
Memorable Movie Quote: "Oh Lord, why did you let me see heaven, then take it away?"
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Official Site:
Release Date:
September 11, 2015
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: A man involved in a horrific car crash is pronounced dead, only to come back to life an hour and a half later, claiming to have seen Heaven.

No details available.


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