- on Friday, 18 March 2016 16:27
- by Frank Wilkins
Hoping to fill its collection plates with the big bucks of a crossover audience, Sony’s faith-based distribution arm, Affirm Films follows its tried-and-true formula of casting a genuine movie star in Miracles From Heaven, a Christian film based on the true story about a little girl who was rescued by a freak accident that apparently cured her life-threatening disease.
And why wouldn't it? After all, the distributor’s 2014 hit, Heaven is For Real grossed over $100 million on a budget barely a tenth of that. There are clearly plenty of commercial miracles to be had in the genre and employing the talents of Golden Globe winner Jennifer Garner to tote the gospel all but ensures the attention of the mainstream heathens.
The film is based on the inspiring memoirs of Christy Beam, the young Texas girl’s mother whose faith and courage were put to the test as she went from doctor to doctor before finally receiving a fatal diagnosis of her daughter’s illness by a specialist based in Boston. Though beautifully shot, competently directed by Patricia Riggen, and well acted by Garner, the film’s message about how life-changing a single act of kindness can be gets lost in its lofty preachings and the annoying overtones that promise everything will be fine as long as you have faith and pray.
Anna (Kylie Rogers) suffers from a rare intestinal motility disease that makes her incapable of digesting food. After years of hospital visits and with all hope for eventual recovery lost, Anna and her family finally return home from Boston Children’s Hospital to their idyllic Texas ranch that is borrowed to the hilt by veterinarian father Kevin (Martin Henderson).
Following an accident that knocks her unconscious, Anna undergoes a near-death experience and claims to have spoken with God who promises peace, love, and a medical miracle. Alas, she awakens and is eventually declared asymptomatic by doctors who have no explanation for what has happened.
Wanting it to be more than a story about Anna’s remarkable medical miracle, the script by Randy Brown sprinkles the story with little feel-good tidbits that touch on themes of family unity, Godly benevolence, human compassion, and the universal questions of life, death, and the meaning of it all.
But there’s a snake lurking in the garden of compassion. And he bears the face of overt proselytization. Despite a few friendly-fire shots taken at the inner-circle loyalists that feel more like weak attempts to deflect criticism, the strong feelings that this is a film by Christians, for Christians and that non-Christians aren’t welcome is overwhelmingly off-putting.
As expected, many of the real-life details have been changed and characters amalgamated. An appearance by Queen Latifah as Anna’s guardian angel of sorts is clunkily handled – her name is Angela, get it? She’s an inner-city waitress, drives a beat-up clunker, and volunteers to drive Anna and her mother around town. That her race is changed to black from an Irish woman reeks of pandering in broad swaths. However, Eugenio Derbez stands out as Anna’s Boston specialist. He’s the only one not telling Anna’s mother that everything will be fine if she just prays harder and has stronger faith in God.
There’s nothing clever about Miracles From Heaven. Neither is there anything all-embracing in its themes. In fact, anyone outside the choir will feel extremely alienated by its everything-will-be-ok message.
It’s a tricky thing trying to review a film like this with a critical eye. Regardless of anything said here, the target audience will eat this thing up. They always do. By the time all the private church group lock-ins and Vacation Bible School sleepovers are done, the film will have recouped its $13 million budget at least 10 times over. How’s that for a miracle?
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material, including accident and medical images.
Runtime: 109 mins
Director: Patricia Riggen
Writer: Randy Brown
Cast: Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, Martin Henderson
Tagline: How do we explain the impossible?
Memorable Movie Quote: "We'll get through it, by not losing our faith."
Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing
Official Site: https://www.facebook.com/MiraclesHeaven/?fref=ts
Release Date: March 16, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: Miracles from Heaven is based on the incredible true story of the Beam family. When Christy (Jennifer Garner) discovers her 10-year-old daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers) has a rare, incurable disease, she becomes a ferocious advocate for her daughter’s healing as she searches for a solution.
After Anna has a freak accident and falls three stories, a miracle unfolds in the wake of her dramatic rescue that leaves medical specialists mystified, her family restored and their community inspired.
No details available.