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A Haunted House 2

Heaven Is For Real

April 24, 2014

A Haunted House 2 (**)

The best thing you could say about last year’s surprise box office smash and found footage horror film parody A Haunted House was that it was at least better than Scary Movie V, and yes, I realize that’s faint praise.  The latter film covered much of the same territory but with virtually no laughs, while A Haunted House offered a high enough ratio of successful gags to groaners that made the thing watchable if still no great shakes. I don’t have to tell you it’s no awards contender but then I’m sure you’re way ahead of me on that already.

A Haunted House 2, in the same spirit as the first installment, could never be mistaken for a great film as previously mentioned. Still, the first half offers some spirited laughs before things kind of peter out about the same time that Cedric the Entertainer shows up reprising his role from the previous entry. By this time, you’ll probably have seen enough and will be ready for the end credit roll anyway so I guess it all works to the viewer’s advantage.

As with most films of its ilk, A Haunted House 2 looks to horror films that have come and gone since the release of the first film in search of its targets. It finds a steady stream of them by cribbing such spookfests from the past year and a half as The Conjuring, Sinister, and Mama, to name a few. It also manages to reference such requisite targets as Honey Boo Boo, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Chris Brown, Paula Deen, etc.

Pressly & Wayans in Haunted House 2

The plot of A Haunted House 2, such as it is, picks up presumably not long after the first one. Malcolm (Marlon Wayans), whose girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins), died during an exorcism in the first installment, moves into a new house with new girlfriend, Megan (Jaime Pressly), during the film’s opening scenes. Once there, it isn’t long before he finds a doll looking suspiciously like the one found in last summer’s box office hit The Conjuring, and proceeds to redefine the term sex-toy.  After that it’s off to the races with a non-stop barrage of gags and only the thinnest plot on which to hang them.

Star and co-writer Wayans is the majority of the show here. How much you appreciate his and the Wayans’ brand of humor readily found here and in the fondly remembered show he co-created with his brothers, In Living Color, will certainly dictate how much you enjoy the goings on of A Haunted House 2. Hopefully, that will give you enough of an idea as to whether you should enter into this haunted house or not. Others beware.

Heaven Is For Real (** ½)

How one feels about spiritual matters is a very personal thing and has been known to spur very uncomfortable arguments, sometimes even rupturing familial relationships in the process. It’s always been said that it’s best not to tread the subjects of religion and/or politics in unknown company but I’m not sure that’s really going to be a problem for the creative talent behind Heaven Is for Real. The film is clearly meant to cater to those who are familiar with the film’s subject and are curious to see how the filmmakers handle things, not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, mind you. If one found the book to be an inspiration then the film is probably going to speak volumes. More cynical minds, who won’t likely be showing up in droves to the theater, anyway, will take issue with some elements of the film that require blind faith alone. This is a film where personal views certainly dictate one’s response.

The story of Imperial, Nebraska, pastor Todd Burpo and his son Colton’s alleged trip to heaven during an emergency appendectomy, have been matters of debate since the book’s publication.

Greg Kinnear & Conor Corum in ‘Heaven’

Both sides of the argument have issues with the reverend Burpo’s account. Biblical scholars and some conservative Christians argue that the book has problematic claims and what they feel are an unbiblical perspective in regards to the younger Burpo’s account of his ordeal. I suppose I don’t have to tell you what the nonbelievers are saying.

At any rate, the film seems to be a fairly straightforward adaptation of the book. Todd (Greg Kinnear) is presented as a typical rural minister doing the best he can to provide for his wife, Sonja (Kelly Reilly) and their two children and barely keeping one step ahead of the bill collectors. Todd has several mishaps of his own to contend with—a broken leg and kidney stones—prior to Colton’s misfortune. When word gets out that Colton (Connor Corum) claims to have seen heaven and that his interpretation of Jesus and the afterlife doesn’t exactly jive with what most have been led to believe, this leads to even more problems, which happen to include a possible expulsion from the church for the good reverend.

As characters in a film, the Burpos are likeable enough but there just isn’t enough dramatic tension to sustain things, from a filmmaking standpoint. The film eventually just drifts from scene to scene aimlessly, eventually leading to a standoff between Todd and the church. Director/co-writer Randall Wallace (Braveheart) does his best but after awhile I was just ready for things to wrap up.

On a technical note, the exquisite lensing of the pic by veteran Australian cinematographer Dean Semler (Dances With Wolves, The Road Warrior), must be mentioned. It raises the film to an entirely different level and is nearly enough reason to make the effort to see it even if the subject matter is problematic for the viewer.

Heaven Is For Real and A Haunted House 2 are playing at the Carmike Theater in Hickory, and other area theaters.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

 

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