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DVD Review HTF REVIEW: "The Other Side of Heaven" (with screenshots) (1 Viewer)

Ronald Epstein

Senior HTF Member
Jul 3, 1997
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


Senior HTF Member
Sep 13, 1999
Real Name
Chris Caine
mulling this one,

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

Brandon Conway

Senior HTF Member
Sep 30, 2002
North Hollywood, CA
Real Name
Brandon Conway
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.
HA! :laugh:

Seriously, though, I haven't seen the film, and I've heard mixed things about it. I have, however, read Elder Groberg's book (I say Elder because he is a leader now in the LDS Church), back when it was still called "In the Eye of the Storm," and it is great. (It was especially uplifting to me while I was on my own mission in East Washington/North Idaho). However, I've heard some of my favorite experiences that he related didn't even make the film cut, and therefore I have little interest. I've also heard (like Ron hints at) that the film is a bit overly preachy, while I never got such a feeling from the book.

Anyway, glad to see you gave such a small film a review, Ron. :) :emoji_thumbsup:

Jonathan Burk

Second Unit
May 31, 1999
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.

Devin U

Second Unit
Jun 23, 2002
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.


Stunt Coordinator
Aug 16, 2002
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)


Sep 30, 1997
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!



Senior HTF Member
Sep 13, 1999
Real Name
Chris Caine
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. :D

we do have a Tongan presence around here as well.

some of the language is similar, names too.


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