Synopsis: A financially desperate couple rob a mansion and become victims themselves when a dying Christian man traps them inside and won’t let them leave until they’ve made a decision to follow Jesus.
I’m not sure there is an animal actor today who has the universal name recognition of such bygone stars as Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, the Lone Ranger’s Silver, Roy Rogers’ Trigger, even Morris the finicky cat. Maybe Benji, but even he hasn’t been a staple of the silver screen for a couple of decades. But for the sake of comparison, let’s use Benji, the beloved pooch of such films as “Benji,” “For the Love of Benji,” “Benji the Hunted,” and “Benji: Off the Leash.” Now imagine that some careless, overpaid, studio underling gets distracted and lets Benji wander into traffic where he gets flattened by a steamroller, and the whole thing is captured on a couple of dozen cell phone cameras and plastered all over YouTube. The once overpaid studio underling now possesses the nation’s most recognizable and despised face as the man who murdered Benji. He is no longer overpaid, because he is unemployed, and pretty much unemployable, because who’s gonna hire the guy who killed Benji, right?
That’s the set-up for Heaven Bound, the new comedy from Drake Films and Torrent Entertainment. Instead of Benji, ad exec Ted (Michael Joiner) accidentally offs Mr. Mitzky, the beloved mascot of a dog food brand, and suddenly finds himself drowning in debt with no prospect of recovery, until his desperate wife, Josie (Nancy Stafford), concocts a harebrained scheme to heist a fortune in jewels from her boss’ home. The couple is joined in their ill-conceived burglary by Josie’s bumbling brother Moochie (Torry Martin). Unfortunately for the hapless crew, the home they target is protected by a state of the art security system – one that is designed to keep people in, rather then keeping people out. Josie’s boss – an elderly doctor who just wants to make a difference for Jesus before he dies – agrees to let them all leave after the four-day weekend, if they’ll let him share the Gospel. High jinx ensues.
Heaven Bound lands squarely in the wheelhouse of the emerging crop of Christian family films aimed specifically toward the church market. It relies largely on physical humor, including a healthy dose of slapstick, to generate laughs. Joiner and Stafford are seasoned pros who willingly join in the fun, and Martin is a master of the one-liner. Together they create an easy chemistry for comedy. But my favorite moments in the film were the more poignant scenes when the dying doctor reminisces about his wife.
Spoiler Alert: It all ends happily ever after.
Recommended for a family movie night for parents with upper-elementary age kids.