Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
|Featuring:||Reese Witherspoon, Mark Ruffalo, Donal Logue, Dina Spybey, Ben Shenkman|
|Director:||Mark Waters (“Freaky Friday”, “Mean Girls”)|
|Producer:||David Householter, Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes|
What is the significance of the New Age Movement? Answer
What is the Occult? Answer
THE OCCULT—What does the Bible say about it? Answer
What kind of world would you create? a short, enlightening discussion of paradise, our world, Heaven and the New Heavens and Earth—Go
Am I good enough to go to Heaven? Answer
ARE YOU GOING TO HEAVEN?—a 30-minute on-line video that starts out with a thought-provoking question, then moves on to a well-reasoned and well-illustrated explanation of sin, humanity’s need for salvation, the purpose of Christ’s death, the Bible, faith, heaven, hell and how to be sure you are going to heaven.
It’s a wonderful afterlife.
Pop Quiz: What does “Ghost,” “Heaven Can Wait,” and “All Of Me” have in common? Give up? It’s DreamWorks’ new movie “Just Like Heaven.”
Elizabeth (Reese Witherspoon, so captivating not just in beauty but behavior) is a dedicated doctor who has no life outside the hospital. She works 26 hour shifts and is up for the position of Attending Physician. She is thrilled to learn she has won that most revered post on the same night her sister has invited her to dinner and the prospect of the perfect guy in yet another arranged blind date.
Already late, Elizabeth is preoccupied with her car stereo, and while fiddling with the channels, her car is hit by a truck.
As incandescent clouds float over the Golden Gate bridge we are lead to our next character searching for an apartment to let. As his energy is running out, after viewing apartment after uncomfortable apartment, David (a gentle and convincing Mark Ruffalo) is slapped in the face by a very persistent ad floating on the breeze, for an apartment which he just happens to be standing right in front of. David finds this apartment, furnished with the perfect couch, is “perfect.”
The next thing Elizabeth knows, some man is in her apartment, messing up the furniture and putting rings on her walnut coffee table with sweating beer cans. She does not realize that three months have gone by, her apartment has been sublet, and that no one can see her but her new tenant, a sad and lonely man named David.
As David, manifestly confronted with Elizabeth’s supernatural presence, consults Darryl (Jon Heder from “Napoleon Dynamite”), the clerk in a psychic bookstore, and tries to confide in his unbelieving best friend Jack (Donal Logue), he becomes more frustrated with the fact he cannot get rid of her nor help her get back “to the light.” David brings in a priest for a painfully overacted exorcism and employs some pretty funny Ghostbusters (theme and all), and attempts recitations from the books, but nothing seems to work to support or advise her.
As time goes by, Elizabeth realizes she is spirit, but refuses to accept she is dead. She has a form of “ghost amnesia” that must be cured and employs David to help her solve the mystery of her spirit form as well as find out who she is. In a movie like this there is no logical reason for such matters. They simply are, and you are asked to accept them.
The fun is in the investigating, as this romantic comedy turns and twists in sweet and sometimes bittersweet ways. As Elizabeth and David try to find out who she is and what is going on, they both realize that neither one has been fully alive in their respective lives. Each must find a way to rescue the other to find a way for them to be together before, as the production notes say, their prospects for a future together permanently fade away.
“Just Like Heaven” works, and so we accept everything, even the scene where a man is unconscious on the floor of a restaurant and Elizabeth tells David the man’s lung is leaking air into his chest cavity, and he must open a hole with a paring knife and keep it open with the plastic pour spout from a vodka bottle. As the chest is vented and the victim breathes again, Elizabeth jubilantly remembers she’s a doctor.
They race to the hospital, only to find Elizabeth’s body on life support, in a coma from the horrible car accident three months ago, and teetering between this life and the next.
We meet Elizabeth’s sister Abby (Dina Spybey) who has the unnerving right to sign a form which will allow Elizabeth to pass away out of her coma and out of David’s Earthly life. Elizabeth’s two little nieces who can see or at least feel her, and her dedicated friends and co-workers who help David find Elizabeth’s body in the hospital, frozen in a coma after the accident, barely clinging to life, not to mention the creepy doctor Rushton who took over her job when she became a spirit and is trying hard to convince Elizabeth’s grief stricken sister to take Elizabeth off life support. He encourages Abby by spouting she “Ask God’s forgiveness and not prolong the inevitable.”
Can Elizabeth and David, who are now in love, take steps to return her to a corporal existence that will make their relationship immeasurably more satisfactory? Will David’s best buddy, Jack, who also is his analyst, help him with an incredible plan to save Elizabeth so that she can join him in the present? Can one movie support these many coincidences and close calls and still keep your attention? There is a contest between what we want and what the characters do, and we get involved in spite of ourselves. The ending is a great round of twists, so as not to take away from it’s impact, I will let you see for yourselves. All I can say is it’s not disappointing, although you probably can see it coming.
“Just Like Heaven” is based on the book “If Only It Were True” by Marc Levy and directed by Mark Waters, who made the venerable “The House of Yes” and the serviceable “Mean Girls.” His film is a fairy tale, and he meshes it with a mixture of familiar, easygoing songs (“Just My Imagination” and the “Ghostbusters” theme) and biting humor, including a slap at “The Exorcist.” Which satisfied me, because that movie is so demonic I won’t even go there. At least nothing in “Just Like Heaven” is treated as fact, as far as the physic element goes, and that’s why comedies work better with the occult, because they poke fun at it instead of giving it a nod as fact.
Parents should know that this film has some crude language which includes 2 h*ll, 3 a** (in different forms), 1 use of the word “slut,” 1 sh*t, 2 references to God: “Oh, my God,” someone giving “the finger,” brief non-sexual (comic) nudity, and some sexual references. Characters drink, including excessive drinking to numb pain and a description of drinking a lot of Margaritas as being fun. A character punches another in the nose, and there are tense scenes.
Some viewers may be disturbed by the question of “pulling the plug.” While it is certainly a good idea to have a balanced life, for a moment this movie seems to suggest that failing and getting drunk are better than working hard and making a contribution. In the end, though, the characters learn who they are and what are the best things in life to help make them productive and whole again. To it’s credit, there is not a dark moment in the movie, unless of course you take the plot seriously, in which case it is deeply tragic. Unfortunately, a Christian alternative is never suggested as the ultimate healing for all broken hearts.
A relevant strength of this movie is its portrayal of a man who turns down a beautiful and willing woman who offers him sex because it would interfere with the relationship he hopes to have with someone else. A Christian quality running through “Just Like Heaven” is how these characters love each other and treat one another with respect and affection. The love between Elizabeth and David proves over again that true love blooms only after two people get to know one another as friends before there is a physical relationship.
Families who see this movie should talk about their own end of life wishes. They should also talk about how we can achieve a balance between working for the future and taking time to appreciate the present. We only have this one chance in this world to give the gifts of the saving grace of Jesus and love to those who mean the most to us.
Another thing to discuss is the very real fact that there is no such thing as a “disembodied spirit” like Elizabeth’s character has. That The Scriptures emphatically forbid any contact with incantations, mediums, the spirit world, etc. and any who venture to trust in the occult instead of the True Word of God has sinned .
“Just Like Heaven” (as the name suggests) is not just like heaven, for there is no heaven on Earth until Jesus comes back to claim it and rule forever. Then the New Jerusalem will come to Earth, and in Heaven all true followers of Christ shall be forever.
Make no mistake, although I liked this move and it is, after all a fantasy and a “ghostly” love story akin to the classic “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” we need to know that Proverbs warns we can be deceived into believing we are doing the right thing (as when David sought out the psychic book store for help instead of Scripture) and yet be heading towards spiritual destruction. People do not naturally seek God or pursue righteousness (Rom. 3:10-18). Only the Spirit awakens our hearts to the Person of Christ so that we see we need God’s leading in unanswerable situations. Our most profound human thinking is mere foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18-20). Only God knows the way that leads to Eternal Life (not any spiritual medium or divinations can do that).
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Proverbs 16:25). Only God knows the way that leads to life and to Heaven itself, and He wants to lead us to walk that way (Matthew 7:13-14)!
Violence: Minor / Profanity: Mild / Sex/nudity: Minor
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.