I’m encouraged by the recent uptick in traffic for Christian-themed films, and the success of movie projects by Sherwood Baptist Church and Sony Pictures’ Affirm Films division. So here’s my positive review for the currently playing Miracles From Heaven. I have to confess that I’m no film critic; my observations don’t run a whole lot deeper than “Um, I kinda liked it,” or “Jennifer Garner’s really cute.” (Both true here.)
In my humble view, faith-based films only do well when the following three elements are solidly present.
- All professional actors. This film definitely has that; Garner is very effective, not just in the Christian aspects, but as an anxious and loving mom. That part of the story is moving and believable. Martin Henderson (the dad) and John Lynch (Pastor Scott) are strong performers; Kylie Rogers does well (not overly precocious, thank God) as the afflicted child.
- Nice splashes of humor. The Sherwood films (Facing the Giants, Fireproof) have won audiences over with bits here and there of just hilarious footage (their guy banter is really Seinfeld-level fun to watch). Some nice self-deprecating laughs can disarm an theater audience that might be expecting walls of stiff piety. In this film, the humor is winsomely delivered by Queen Latifah, of course, but even more by Eugenio Derbez, who plays the rescuing Dr. Narko. He’s also the Spanish-speaking donkey in all the Shrek films!
- This is the most important of all – an astute screenplay that allows for some nuance in the presenting of Christian ideas. Some films, perhaps the majority in this genre, are just so heavy-handed and binary (all Christians good, all atheists bad) that secular reviewers rightly trash the entire project. But Miracles From Heaven is gracious and vulnerable in its presenting of God ideas. There’s one scene in particular where I feared a blunt and clumsy rejoinder. Garner is about to have a tense confrontation with the atheist dad (Wayne Pere) of a little girl dying of cancer in the adjacent hospital bed. “Here we go,” I muttered as the two actors stepped out into the hallway for some verbal combat. But Christy Beam just leans closer to her antagonist and quietly admits: “I have my doubts too.” A really nice moment and one reason this film is effective.
There are two (again, just in my view) false moments in the picture; both of them take place at church and, trust me, you’ll know them when you see them. But overall, this is a nicely developed story and those who prepared and delivered such a thoughtful script are to be commended. I must close by saying that any film which has the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” running through the closing credits will automatically get thumbs-up.