Baptist minister Don Piper believes he went to heaven for a hour and a half back in 1989, when his smashed-up body lay in the mangled remains of his car after a terrible accident and a declaration that he was dead from paramedics. Turns out he was only mostly dead. Later, Piper wrote what turned out to be a bestselling book about the “experience.” And now screenwriter and director Michael Polish — who once made really good movies such as Twin Falls Idaho and The Astronaut Farmer — has adapted that book into a film so deeply awful that it will make you question the existence of God (if you don’t already).
It’s not so much 90 Minutes in Heaven as 120 minutes in hell. There is no drama here. There’s barely a plot. Instead we get Hayden Christensen (Vanishing on 7th Street, Takers), as Piper, with a bad 80s moustache and a worse Southern accent moaning theatrically from a hospital bed and refusing to do anything to get well for reasons that are, at best, mysterious, for he tells no one, and at worst, selfish: he would prefer to be back in heaven instead of stuck on planet Earth with his boring ol’ wife and kids. (When we finally, at the end of the film, get a taste of what heaven was like for him, it is depicted with the intolerable dullness of an obligatory office function that you bide your time at until you can escape without pissing off the boss.) Meanwhile, his saintly wife, trying to find some way to reignite his will to live, is frantically telling friends and family things like “He won’t breathe, he refuses to breathe” when he is clearly breathing just fine. (The wife is played by Kate Bosworth [Still Alice, Movie 43], who perseveres through the film in a robotic stupefaction, like how you do when you’re on the verge of vomiting in a public place and must move with careful precision and small steps until you reach somewhere to hurl in private. You can almost see her thinking, “Just two more scenes… Just one more scene… I can make it… I can make it….”)
People we’ve never met show up, get no introductions, and deliver pep talks to Don before disappearing again. The stilted, expository dialogue is bereft of all emotion even in situations that are literally life-and-death. The characters and their interactions are the least natural I’ve ever seen in a film that wasn’t made by Ed Wood. (And I thought Heaven Is for Real was bad!) I could easily be convinced that this is an atheistic false-flag of a movie designed to make “faith-based” cinema look even more ridiculous than it usually does.