Talking to Heaven (2002) starring Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Diane Ladd, Michael Moriarty, Jay Brazeau, Queen Latifah, Jack Palance directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal Movie Review

Talking to Heaven (2002)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Ted Danson in Talking to Heaven (2002) (aka: Living with the Dead)

Medium Entertainment

Is clairvoyant and medium James Van Praagh a fraud? It is a question you will not find the answer to here but I should state upfront I am a sceptic of anyone who says they can communicate with the dead especially those who make a living out of it doing shows. Anyway "Talking to Heaven", which is also known as "Living with the Dead", is inspired by the story of James Van Praagh how he found himself with this ability to communicate with the dead and the confusion it brought him and this is interweaved with a fictional crime story of teenage boys being murdered and Van Praagh using his ability to help solve the crime. Now for those who believe in psychics, clairvoyants and mediums and are fond of James Van Praagh I can see "Talking to Heaven" being a fantastic movie with its super natural side where as for those who are sceptics we have an effective super natural drama, a slow one which lasts almost 3 hours because it was originally a two part mini-series but still an effective mystery movie.

The first hour of "Talking to Heaven" tends to focus on James and his gift as whilst it starts with James rushing to the hospital where his mother has been taken following a stroke it delves into his childhood. We see via numerous flashbacks that even as a young boy James was capable of seeing and speaking with the dead, a gift he didn't understand, which terrified him at times and also lead to him being bullied. When it focuses on the now it focuses on James trying to understand what these visions are he has, not fully aware of what his psychic capabilities are until he finds encouragement from web designer Midge Harmon who encourages him to come to terms with this strange ability. Now this to be honest is where "Talking to Heaven" is at its most ponderous, creeping along in almost a disjointed manner as it flits between the past and the present making it slow going and hard to get into.

Mary Steenburgen in Talking to Heaven (2002) (aka: Living with the Dead)

Once this set up is in place with James coming to terms with the gift he has we see him start to put it to good use by helping a widow whose husband was murdered which leads to James meeting Detective Karen Condrin who together work on a case involving the murder and burial of several boys. Now for those who are not into the whole psychic side of things or are unaware of who James Van Praagh is this is when "Talking to Heaven" starts to become involving as we have James through visits from a dead boy is lead to where he is buried in the woods and we see more bodies uncovered. What follows on from there is the solving of the crime to capture who the man behind the murder of these boys before another one is killed. All of which is still a little slow going but is a more comfortable if a little grizzly crime drama which gets you involved. As to whether they capture the guy and what happens next well track down a copy and watch "Talking to Heaven".

Now I have never seen James Van Praagh and so have no idea how accurate Ted Danson's portrayal of the medium is but Danson portrays an effective character. Early on he has the haunted look of a man plagued by visions which he can't make sense off and wants rid off but he evolves the character into someone who sees what he has a gift he can use to help people, not just cops but lonely people elsewhere. Whether you are a sceptic or not Danson is effective in a role which demands a confident performance and he works well with wife Mary Steenburgen who as Detective Karen Condrin has more of a cliche character in the attractive and slightly comical cop. Plus Danson gets further good support from Jack Palance who plays his sceptic father and Queen Latifah as psychic believing Midge Harmon.

What this all boils down to is that whether or not you believe in the ability of James Van Praagh "Talking to Heaven" is an effective murder mystery movie with its only problem being that it is incredibly slow going at times which probably arose from making the story in to a two part mini-series.