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Parents' Guide to

Highway to Heaven

By Monique Jones, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Saccharine reboot reminds audiences of kindness, empathy.

TV Lifetime Drama 2021
Highway to Heaven Poster Image

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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.

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