‘90 Minutes in Heaven’
Director: Michael Polish
Stars: Hayden Christensen, Kate Bosworth
2 (out of 5) Globes
Like last year’s “Heaven is for Real,” the superficially similar “90 Minutes in Heaven” is both not quite what you think and what you think. Both are products made outside the usual small-time, podunk faith-based production grounds. Both are based on a mega-bestseller boasting dodgy supernatural bona fides. Both make beyond tall claims that would never sway even a weak agnostic, or perhaps even a casual Christian. And both could have easily been TBN-style monstrosities that did nothing but preach to the converted, but instead do slightly more. Still, the bar is set very low.
Not that "Real" and "90 Minutes" don’t preach to the converted, but there is some effort to get at something other than an unquestioning reassurance of blind faith — to connect its tale to deeper, one could say secular concerns. At heart “Heaven is for Real” is about a father wrestling with believing his son’s potential lies; at heart “90 Minutes in Heaven” is about a woman struggling with her husband’s painful, at times physically and emotionally gruesome recovery. Both are also about someone claiming they’ve seen heaven, but forget that for now. And yet neither can overcome their chintzy, ultimately dramatically inert origins, and “90 Minutes” in particular flatlines in its last half hour and barely putters along in the hour and half before that.
“90 Minutes” begins like any ostentatiously fundie film, which is to say terribly. Thirty-something Baptist minister Don Piper (Hayden Christensen) drives around to a Christian radio station while glancing at Bible notes, blissfully unaware he’s about to be plowed into by a semi-trailer truck. (Much of "90 Minutes" rises well above basic competence, but the freeze frame of Don mid-impact is worse than anything in the Kirk Cameron canon.) In the time Don is presumed dead before unexpectedly creeping back to consciousness, he sees a laughably cheap CGI vision of deceased, smiling relatives standing in front of a butt ugly yellow light.
Don doesn't even mention this vision until less than a half hour remains. Even then it doesn’t dig into whether Don’s sincerely held beliefs are truth or BS (or, more charitably, a hallucination he mistook for reality). That's a good thing and not: good, because it doesn't have much of a case; not, because there's not much there there. For the bulk of its time it’s an earnest but detached, sporadically actually moving and often narcotically slow study of one man’s baby step-y recovery and what the ordeal does to his marriage.