DVD Review HTF REVIEW: "The Other Side of Heaven" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Mar 25, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    The Other Side Of Heaven

    Studio: Walt Disney
    Year: 2001
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 113 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Subtitles: English

    An ordinary boy and his journey among extraordinary
    people who would change his life forever.

    I don't know how many of you out there have ever
    heard of the film The Other Side Of Heaven --
    I certainly did not -- but something gives me the
    feeling that this film never quite went mainstream,
    but instead was the sort of film that was being
    passed around the religious community. Not that
    I am knocking any sort of religion whatsoever, but
    I felt that watching The Other Side Of Heaven
    was an experience not too unlike hearing the
    doorbell ring only to answer it to find a group of
    Mormons preaching at me.


    Based on a true story, a young man named John
    Groeburg (Christopher Gorham) leaves his girlfriend
    (Anne Hathaway) behind to accept his mission calling
    to the remote Tongon islands. Of course, he has never
    even heard of this place or these people but with full
    faith he commits to it. His only two orders are to
    learn the language and to spread the gospel. In this
    case, that included The Book of Mormon.

    During his two years on the island he become friends
    with the inhabitants while spreading the faith by
    converting as many of the natives as he can. His
    island companion, Feki (Joe Folau), helps him with
    the language as the two become good friends.
    Meanwhile John wants Jean to wait for him and not
    marry anyone else before he returns, though both of
    the characters endure hardships along the way.


    There is no argument that this is a film blessed
    with beautiful cinematography and breathtaking
    South Pacific locations. Cinematographer Brian
    J. Breheny never shies away from providing as many
    stunning shots of island sunrises and sunsets as
    he can get away with. The personal problem I had
    with this film, however, is in its awkward combination
    of entertainment and evangelical promotion. The
    film tries so hard to be good-natured and wholesome
    that there is no emotional depth to its characters.
    The people you watch for just under two hours never
    change nor are ever shown reflecting on the
    difficulties they endure. As a result, one soon
    loses interest in these characters and the hardships
    they endure.

    How is the transfer?

    The folks at Walt Disney have provided us with a
    breathtaking transfer that readily shows off all
    the tropical colors of its island setting. Images
    are razor sharp, sporting exceptional detail and no
    sign of any noise or grain. Color reproduction is
    beautiful and accurate.


    The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix included here is nicely
    done with excellent sound direction. Christopher
    Gorham's narration stays firmly in the center
    channel as the film's primary audio plays across
    the front channels with satisfying imaging and
    stereo separation. The rears do an excellent job
    of surrounding the listener with Kevin Kiner's
    hauntingly beautiful orchestral score. In fact,
    the rears seem to be forever active, constantly
    providing the sounds of surrounding island tides
    and various weather elements. LFE activity is
    very strong during the film's climatic wind and
    thunderstorm sequences.

    Special Features


    A full-length audio commentary by Writer,
    Director and Excecutive Producer Mitch Davis is
    a nice effort thanks to Davis' warm and voice and
    overall enthusiasm. Davis begins by giving us a
    little background on the true story of John
    Groberg. The director talks about the difficult
    choice of making a film that has one foot in
    religion while the other in action. Once on the
    islands, many of the natives were used as extras in
    the film despite the fact they had no previous
    acting experience. One of the best stories told
    in this commentary is the one about the real-life
    boy who fell from the top of the mango tree. Watch
    the film first and hear the commentary in chapter
    four. Davis keeps this commentary rolling along
    at an interesting pace, giving us background
    information on filming, while relating Groberg's
    real-life experiences to those depicted in the film.


    The making of The Other Side of Heaven begins
    with footage of actor Christopher Gorham meeting the
    real John Groberg (whose story this film is based
    upon). Gorham talks a bit about the film and his
    character. Taking a look at the French Polynesia
    Island where this film was lensed, the cast talks
    about coming to a strange land and meeting its people.
    This featurette is chock-full of behind-the-scenes
    footage, including showing us how the film's major
    storm sequences were put together.
    (length: approx. 24 minutes)


    A Still gallery contains approximately 35
    production and behind-the-scenes photos that you
    can leisurely browse though using your remote.

    Final Thoughts


    There's nothing wrong with this film about positive
    influence that is entertaining enough to make children
    sit through. However, there are better films out
    there for kids to enjoy whose messages are just as

    Worthy of a rental for kids. Adults should be
    aware of the film's religious undertones.

    Release Date: April 1, 2003

    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
  2. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

    May 7, 2001
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    Bless you, for the review Ron.
  3. Yumbo

    Yumbo Cinematographer

    Sep 13, 1999
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    mulling this one,

    being from the Pacific; what's with being set in Tonga, but shot in Tahiti?
  4. Michael Silla

    Michael Silla Second Unit

    Jul 27, 2001
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    I'm picking this one up sight unseen. The cinematography looks amazing.

    Thanks Ron,

  5. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

    Sep 30, 2002
    Likes Received:
    North Hollywood, CA
    Real Name:
    Brandon Conway
  6. Jonathan Burk

    Jonathan Burk Second Unit

    May 31, 1999
    Likes Received:
    Castaic, CA
    Real Name:
    Jonathan Burk
    I totally agree with Ron's observations about the shallowness of the characters, and was amazed to come to the end of this film and not care at all about the characters. The whole island could have been consumed by a gigantic volcano in a Titanic-like ending, and I wouldn't have cared one bit.

    I'm looking forward to reading Elder Groberg's book, because I could see how strong the experiences were, but I just couldn't feel it. While the movie has excellent cinematography, the direction, acting, and music are all closer to "church video" than "Hollywood Movie" (or even "really-good-independent-movie"). For those who really enjoy watching church videos, that's ok. But if you're expecting a really strong movie-watching experience, on par with a good "gentile" film, you may want to tone down your expectations.

    For many, these artistic weaknesses may be overpowered by the movie's religious and moral overtones, but anyone sensitive to such things may want to rent or borrow before buying.
  7. Devin U

    Devin U Second Unit

    Jun 23, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Ive seen a few other reviews on this one saying it wasnt a real preachy movie. More about his self discovery. Ill be picking it up. My wife loved the book, and my mom loved it in the theater. I dont think it was widely released outside of areas with large LDS populations, even though Disney did it. I met a couple on a trip to Salt Lake last year who came to see it. It's a shame, as Ive never met anyone, LDS or not, who disliked the film or found it as religious propighanda.
  8. JohnDMoore

    JohnDMoore Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 16, 2002
    Likes Received:
    My problem with the film was that it never really went anywhere. There were no life-changing experiences, no conflicts of any real sort. Most missions just don't make good films, though I hear the book is much, much better.
    There was a big deal about this film being something those outside the Mormon community would be able to appreciate, but I had a problem with that. Thanks to Ron's review, I think that's about right. I think a lot of us Mormons just projected the missionaries they knew onto the character. I didn't but it's what I gathered from what I heard.
    A much more appealing film for non-LDS people would be, in my opinion, the far superior "Brigham City" by Richard Dutcher.
    (Though I must agree, TOSOH looks great)
  9. Wes

    Wes Screenwriter

    Sep 30, 1997
    Likes Received:
    Utah USA
    Real Name:
    Wes Peterson
    Thanks for the review Ron, somehow this one completely flew under my radar in the theater. You would think here in SLC there is no way this could happen but it did. My two year mission in England was not quite as exciting but none the less it was fun.

    Thanks again for taking the time to review this disc!

  10. Devin U

    Devin U Second Unit

    Jun 23, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Cool, which England mission, ELSM for me!
  11. Yumbo

    Yumbo Cinematographer

    Sep 13, 1999
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    watching it,

    better than I expected. ok, it was shot in the Cooks, and I actually have been to one of the beaches they used, on Raro.

    the depiction of Suva (Fiji) was a bit off the mark though (wrong colour for uniforms).

    music is not bad.

    I don't find it preachy, being non-LDS. I felt as if they tried VERY hard not to make it preachy.

    I'd recommend it, smiles.

    maybe I'm biased as I can relate to all the island settings and references. [​IMG]

    we do have a Tongan presence around here as well.

    some of the language is similar, names too.


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