A young girl suffering from a rare digestive disorder finds herself miraculously cured after surviving a terrible accident.
Director: Patricia Riggen
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, Martin Henderson, Brighton Sharbino, Courtney Fansler, Queen Latifah
Rated: PG (thematic material, including accident and medical images)
Miracles from Heaven
By Matt Greene
There are certain movies that are catnip for the American Bible Belt: faith-centered family dramas based on “actual events” that have a thick undercurrent of patriotism (Dolphin Tale, The Blind Side, Simon Birch, Soul Surfer). Miracles from Heaven, an ABC Family movie-of-the-week masquerading as cinema, is the latest in that trend. And while it may be one of the better films aiming for the Christian-demographic, that’s like calling a tune the happiest Nickelback song. It’s a (mostly) harmlessly bad outing whose most egregious sin is its incessant pandering.
This true story is every parent’s nightmare: a little girl inexplicably contracts an incurable disorder, and the faith of her family is understandably tested. Rogers, as the sick girl, is actually really good and provides some of the only gravitas in a movie otherwise filled with feather-weight ideas on faith and Christianity. Garner, as the mother, continues to prove she should stick to lighter fare, as her dramatic chops are just plain not there. Even with the shameful yet effective manipulation, her inability to get beyond soap-opera melodrama too often distracts from the tragedy.
Not that this is purely a downer of a movie, in either quality or content. Despite knowing (just from the title alone) that something good will change this family’s circumstances, director Riggan does a decent enough job of keeping us in the family’s mindset, especially during the climactic tree sequence. It even makes up for some of its indulgent tendencies with a message about looking for the little miracles we all experience. Unfortunately, it’s all readily shaded by blatant manipulation and unbelievable stupidity in the minor characters, sins that are hard to forgive.
2 out of 5 Stars
Miracles from Heaven
By Cole Schneider
“Miracles From Heaven”—from the team that brought us “Heaven Is For Real”—continues the unfortunate pattern of whitewashed “Christian” films existing as nothing more than inconsiderate God-propaganda, zealous faith-porn. As a film critic I’m offended by its abominable approach to filmmaking. As a Christian I’m offended by its simplistic reduction of faith. As a human I’m offended by the emotionally manipulative maltreatment of its characters and audience.
Although existential kin with many faith-films before, including many from Ingmar Bergman or even 2014’s “Noah,” the faith presented in these “Christian” films has neither eloquence nor an investigative heart. Good films about belief challenge, these simply affirm broadly. They have willingly reduced themselves (literally) to preaching to the choir—and their sermon would be laughable if its ideological affects weren’t so infuriating.
This appalling trend of “Christian” films with little effort or craft can turn anyone into a cynic. “It must be an Easter cash-grab!” “Those Christians really do believe everything they’re told!” We don’t need to go there, but we can certainly lament that there is neither a worse theatrical film to bring a non-believer to nor a less edifying one for a Jesus-follower to attend.
Don’t misunderstand; there are plenty of great Christian films around. Recently “The Witch,” “Hail, Caesar,” and “Chi-Raq” have wrestled with ideas of faith. “Chi-Raq” beautifully carries Jesus message of righteousness and justice, standing up for the marginalized, even featuring a fiery sermon as its centerpiece. It was skillfully and soulfully made—and it was funny. “Miracles From Heaven” and films like it aren’t “Christian” films; they’re “Churchy” films, offering a two-hour service minus communion.
I hope your Easter is better than this movie!
1.5 out of 5 Stars