A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Moving past grief involves having the courage to face tough emotions and the willingness to express yourself. Communication skills and empathy are key to developing deeper bonds with family.
Positive Role Models
Angela helps Cody and his father work through their complicated feelings of grief, sorrow, and anger after Cody's mother's death. She also brings Cody's family back together by creating scenarios in which they have to have tough, emotional discussions. The family members use communication, empathy, and courage to come back together as a unit.
Michael Landon's angel character is rebooted as Angela Stewart, played by Jill Scott. Having the main character played by a Black, plus-sized woman rather than a White man brings new representation to the Highway to Heaven franchise. Aside from Scott, other racial representation includes Cody's biracial cousin Kaya (Sasha Rojen) and his uncle Luke (Chris Wood). A Black woman (Brittany Palmer) who comes to the baseball pitch where Bruce (Barry Watson) practices seemed to be poised as a potential love interest, but nothing comes of it.
While the number of Black/biracial characters is an improvement on past Lifetime films, as par for the course with Lifetime's renewed focus on diversity in their content, more representation is welcomed. But perhaps there will be more representation in future film installments.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Just one sentence of slight innuendo.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Words that could be considered ableist, like "stupid" and "idiot."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Highway to Heaven is a TV movie based on the 1980s series of the same name starring Michael Landon. The film focuses on Angela Stewart (Jill Scott), an angel who goes to a middle school to help a boy and his family. Themes of communication, family, empathy, and emotional intelligence are throughout the film. Highway to Heaven is largely devoid of adult content, such as slurs, sex, and swear words; there is only one sentence that could be seen as innuendo, and the words "stupid" and "idiot" are used in another scene.
Is It Any Good?
The original TV series was a feel-good, cozy show for families to watch together, and the film reboot of the franchise brings back those cozy feelings thanks to Jill Scott's personal reverence for the story. In a Shadow and Act interview, she talked about how she and her grandmother would watch Highway to Heaven together, which led her to take the role as Angela. Her love for the character comes through her performance; however, it still takes a bit of a leap of faith for the cynical viewer to go along with Scott's sickly-sweet portrayal, even if she is supposed to be an angel. Some parts of the plot also move along at a herky-jerky pace, with characters sometimes making big leaps they might not otherwise do, such as Bruce (Barry Watson) feeling suspicious of Angela for no obvious reason. But his suspicion leads him to reckon with the fact that Angela is an angel, setting the stage for him to join her on her mission of helping people across the country with their problems.
Ben Daon is great as Scott's co-star and child she was sent to help, Cody, who has lost his mother and expresses his grief in hurtful ways. His performance as a troubled kid helps ground the film, which would be overly saccharine without him. But overall, a film like Highway to Heaven is would seem immune to criticism; it's meant to be a sweet, sappy time learning life lessons, and it delivers on its promise. There are also hints of mental health advocacy and discussion thanks to Angela serving as the middle school's guidance counselor; she asks Cody about his feelings, tells him not to "catastrophize," and gently leading him toward exploring his emotional world. The film does have the potential to teach its viewers about how to engage with others who are facing tough emotional challenges -- listening to people without judgment and advising them from empathy goes further than telling people what they "should" do or telling them to ignore their feelings. Overall, Highway to Heaven is a good film to watch if you want to snuggle up in a blanket with a cup of cocoa.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Our Editors Recommend
Drama Movies That Tug at the Heartstrings
Family TV Shows to Watch Together
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate