Movie review: "Heaven's Rain"

"Heaven's Rain" is a delicate, frequently profound drama based on the 1979 home invasion murders of an Oklahoma minister and his wife, whose two children were brutally shot and terrorized in the process. Unfortunately, the resulting film needed a more objective eye and, frankly, a grittier take than the victims' son -- producer, co-writer (with Paul Brown) and costar Brooks Douglass -- was able to provide.

Hampered by Brown's pedestrian direction, the film turns cloying and heavy-handed, particularly during its excessive, overly beatific flashbacks to Douglass' idyllic youth. Furthermore, its faith-oriented themes, although pivotal, are often writ so large they tend to encroach instead of enlighten. Really, how many beauty shots of the heavens do we need?

Mike Vogel, a sharp, appealing young actor ("She's Out of My League," TV's "Miami Medical"), plays Brooks Douglass circa 1993 as the then-freshman senator and his still-shattered sister, Leslie (Taryn Manning), hit an emotional crossroads just before the state execution of one of their family's attackers.

Vogel and Manning ("Hustle & Flow") rise above the exposition-heavy material, even if Vogel is less effective in flashbacks as the teen Douglass. But the rest of the otherwise low-wattage cast, which includes Brooks Douglass, playing his saintly father, and Erin Chambers as an unconvincing newbie journalist, is uniformly bland.

Nice use of the Who's "Love, Reign o'er Me," though.

--Gary Goldstein

"Heaven's Rain." MPAA Rating: R for disturbing content. Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes. At Laemmle's Fallbrook 7, West Hills.