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Heaven's Door DVD Review

Heaven's Door (2012) DVD cover art - click to buy DVD exclusively at Walmart.com Heaven's Door

Running Time: 98 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Craig Clyde / Writers: Craig Clyde (screenplay); Bryce Fillmore (story)

Cast: Charisma Carpenter (Julie Taylor), Dean Cain (Leo Taylor), Joanna Cassidy (Ruth Christensen), Kirstin Dorn (Riley Taylor), Tommy Duane Lister (Ben Wilson), David Nibley (Mitch Hillburn), Kaden Billin (Morgan Taylor), Michael Flynn (Dr. Everett Sloan), Jaci Twiss (Melissa Sue Davis), Skylar James (Darley Allen), Frank Gerrish (Wally Anderson), Connie Young (Nadine Dillon), Ella Harris (Katie Davis), Edward Herrmann (Nate Christensen)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None; Extra Not Subtitled; Movie Closed Captioned
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
DVD Release Date: November 27, 2012 (Walmart), January 29, 2013 (general retail)
Suggested Retail Price: $20.99

Buy Heaven's Door on DVD: Walmart (available November 27) Amazon (available January 29)

Heaven's Door is plagued by a number of ominous signs: a generic cover big on sparkles and floating heads, a cast that includes Dean Cain, and the Dove Foundation's "Family Approved" seal.
All that combined with the tagline "When you're open to faith, miracles can happen", a sticker declaring this a Walmart exclusive DVD, and the image of a girl with a dog looking upward suggest a maudlin direct-to-video film meant to inspire. And that it is.

If there is an actor whose presence screams "direct-to-video" more than Cain, I don't know them. Cain got his big break playing Clark Kent/Superman in the 1990s TV series "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" and later hosted "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" for several years. Nowadays, he keeps himself busy. Too busy. His filmography is a painful read, with titles like The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation, Pure Country 2: The Gift, and The Whole Banana among the recent and upcoming releases. Either completely oblivious or apathetic to the irreversible damage his productivity has done for his image, Cain makes around ten movies a year. That's about five times as many as he should. Consequently, virtually every one of them looks terrible.

Cain only gets second billing in Heaven's Door, behind Charisma Carpenter. Following her runs on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel", Carpenter has largely been limited to television movies and guest appearances, but she did claim one of the few female parts in the aging star-studded action flick The Expendables and its 2012 sequel. Naturally, Carpenter and Cain receive their credits placement by experience and age. The real star of this movie is Kirstin Dorn, a child actress whose image claims the DVD's spines but whose name is missing from the front cover.

A high fall from her attempt to retrieve this soccer ball from this tall tree gives Riley Taylor (Kirstin Dorn) healing powers. Working mom Julie (Charisma Carpenter) doesn't want her children believing in things they can't see.

Dorn plays Riley Taylor, a twelve-year-old girl in the small mountain town of Vineyard, Utah who likes playing soccer and doesn't like that her parents have separated. A minute into the film, Riley's beloved grandfather (Edward Hermann, earning the "and" credit for this minute and a 40-second gold-tinted dream sequence) keels over and dies while with her. This is the latest stroke of tragedy for Riley's mother Julie (Carpenter), a fledgling local newspaper columnist who has recently lost a baby and her faith and is in the process of filing for divorce from her seemingly decent mechanic husband Leo (Cain). Julie's candid, judgmental mother (Joanna Cassidy) does not approve of her actions, specifically her discouraging Riley from believing in a higher power.

Shortly after Grandpa's death, Riley manages to kick a soccer ball high up into a tall evergreen. She not so sensibly goes to retrieve the ball and loses her grip on a branch falling to what might be her own end. Instead, some supernatural force catches her and slows her descent. She's perfectly fine. Better than fine, actually, because this brush with death has turned her into a healer. Soon, she's resurrecting a neighbor's pet and curing any others that aren't well. Riley even heals her four-year-old brother Morgan (Kaden Billin), who was recently diagnosed with asthma. The family's doctor (Michael Flynn) deems it a miracle, but skeptical Julie won't have any of that. Still, afraid of the consequences, she forbids her daughter from healing anyone else.

Here's where the movie gets muddled, as it decides that Riley is meant to heal just a single person (and Morgan apparently doesn't count somehow). After that, the backyard tree's portal to another dimension closes, the effects of Riley's divine intervention are reversed and she begins exhibiting all of the symptoms she cured others of. It's all leading to a conclusion that very much would like for you to cry and believe, against everything you know, that an altogether happy ending will elude the Taylors.

Unwilling to give up on his marriage, Leo (Dean Cain) maintains great interest in his kids. Feared, mostly blind janitor Ben Wilson (Tommy Duane Lister, formerly Tiny Lister) has his eyes opened by his neighbor.

The acting is pretty terrible all around and any promise to the spiritual story disappears during the more manipulative and bizarre moments.
The dubious message seems to be "believe in God and miracles will happen."

I truly wonder how a movie like Heaven's Door gets made. How can anyone in the movie business expect this to make money? Is it even possible for a small studio movie to make money in these days of shrinking home video sales? How many people will deliberately buy this movie from Walmart next week? How many will accidentally buy it? How many will actually go to the store purely with the intent of buying the new Dean Cain movie? Has anyone ever gone to any store with the intent of buying the new Dean Cain movie? Why does Dean Cain make so many movies? Is he only happy when he's working? Does he have money problems like Nicolas Cage? Have Nicolas Cage and Dean Cain ever made a movie together? (This one is easy to answer; IMDb says no.) Are their ties to Superman and shared interest in making lots of movies a strong foundation for a Nicolas Cage and Dean Cain friendship? Would Nicolas Cage and Dean Cain be able to comfort one another over the bruised artistic reputations each holds on the Internet? Do Nicolas Cage and Dean Cain ever read their IMDb message boards? Do they ever cry seeing threads with titles like "Dean Cain is the worst actor of all time!!!", "Horrible movies,worst acting", and "Ok seriously , Dean Cain is the worst actor ever"? Has Dean Cain ever had a Fudgesicle-wielding house intruder or been on the cover of a Serbian biology textbook or been suspected of vampirism?

So, you see, Heaven's Door does raise questions, just not ones about God, the afterlife, divorce, working soccer moms, opportunistic bosses, and sick pets.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Heaven's Door doesn't look all that hot here. The DVD upholds the cinematic formats of 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound (a 2.0 mix is also offered), but neither sense is particularly well engaged. Though clean and generally okay, the picture is at times blurry and looks out of focus. The visuals never get all that sharp, well-lit, or nicely defined. The Dolby 5.1 mix, meanwhile, does almost nothing at all of note. I can't remember anything distinct about the soundtrack, other than the fact that the volume levels were consistent. In lieu of English subtitles, the disc provides only closed captions (which those with HDMI hook-ups won't be able to access).

"Her touch can heal them", claims the trailer for "Heaven's Door." Edward Herrmann makes a golden appearance on the DVD's main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, and PACKAGING

The DVD's one and only extra is a Heaven's Door trailer (2:03), whose inclusion I heartily approve.

The DVD opens with unappealing trailers for Red Dog and Reef 2: High Tide, followed by a preview for a slightly better-looking Robert Duvall/Lucas Black film called Seven Days in Utopia.

The basic main menu plays lightened clips from the film along with some score. A glossy slipcover tops the insert-free Eco-Box keepcase.

Dean Cain and Charisma Carpenter look surprised and saddened to learn that their new movie won't be playing in theaters and won't be available on Blu-ray.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Heaven's Door proves to be just as ludicrous as its cover looks. Undermining the power of faith with hokey miracles of inconsistent logic, this sentimental, low-budget movie is likely to appeal to nobody. And to those interested nobodies, you've got to choose between braving Walmart or waiting two additional months for the light, lackluster DVD's general retail release.

Buy Heaven's Door on DVD: Walmart (now) / Amazon (later)

Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed November 19, 2012.



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