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‘Miracles From Heaven’ review: Faith-based family weathers crisis

Kylie Rogers and Jennifer Garner star in "Miracles

Kylie Rogers and Jennifer Garner star in "Miracles from Heaven." Credit: Sony Pictures / Chuck Zlotnick

PLOT A girl with a severe medical condition is inexplicably cured. Based on a said-to-be true story.

CAST Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, Queen Latifah

LENGTH 1:48

RATED PG (some squeamish medical sequences)

BOTTOM LINE Garner’s solid performance helps elevate a potentially preachy movie to the level of passable drama.

“Miracles From Heaven” tells the supposedly true story of Anna Beam, a young girl with a life-threatening medical condition who, after a near-death experience and a brush with God, is suddenly cured. It’s almost, but not quite, a repeat of 2014’s “Heaven Is For Real,” about a little boy who wakes up from surgery knowing things only God could have told him. What’s interesting about the newer film — both were produced by the megachurch pastor T.D. Jakes — is the relative delicacy with which it handles its none-too-subtle material.

Faith-based films are traditionally a tough sell for secular audiences, but a mainstream star can help box-office prospects. Here it’s Jennifer Garner as Anna’s mom, Christy, a churchgoing woman living in suburban Texas with three children and a handsome husband, Kevin (Martin Henderson). Garner, a terrific emoter whose eyes seem made for crying (“The Odd Life of Timothy Green”), is a fine choice as a woman losing her faith as her middle daughter descends into illness. (The film’s other box-office draw, Queen Latifah, plays a friendly waitress for about three minutes.)

Anna (Kylie Rogers, impressively natural and rarely cloying) has an intestinal disease that prevents her from digesting food; it distends her little belly and leaves her in chronic pain. Much of the film effectively puts us inside the lives of the stressed-out Beams as they struggle to pay for expensive treatments and fly Anna to Boston to see a specialist (a likable Eugenio Derbez). It’s to the film’s credit that when young Anna begs for death to end her misery, we feel the horror and helplessness reflected on Christy’s face.

This is where “Miracles From Heaven,” directed by Patricia Riggen (“The 33”) and written by Randy Brown from Christy Beam’s book, differs from other movies of its ilk. Unlike “Heaven Is For Real,” which spent its running time proving that miracles happen — and, QED, that God exists — this film shows us a family weathering a crisis. That’s a situation that religious and secular audiences alike can empathize with.

“Miracles From Heaven” occasionally wags a told-you-so finger at nonbelievers. But in a genre that tends to hector and bludgeon, that’s some kind of improvement.

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