Review: Manna from Heaven

If only anvils had fallen instead of money, all of this might have been averted.

Manna from Heaven
Photo: Five Sisters Productions

If only anvils had fallen instead of money, all of this might have been averted. A motley jumble of stage and screen stars headline Maria and Gabrielle C. Burton’s Manna from Heaven, a lethargic comedy about a group of friends who, in 1960’s Buffalo, find their quiet suburban street showered in mysterious money that they believe comes from Heaven. Thirty years later, the do-gooder nun of the group (Ursula Burton) reunites everyone so they can give the money—which she now believes wasn’t a gift from God, but merely a loan—back to the community. With a cast that includes Shirley Jones, Cloris Leachman, Louise Fletcher, Seymour Cassel, Shelley Duvall, Jill Eikenberry, Frank Gorshin, and Wendie Malick, you might think that this cinematic experiment in grassroots marketing (the Burton sisters are traveling around the country releasing the film one city at a time) would at least benefit from the time-honed professionalism of its experienced performers. No such luck. Manna from Heaven is a creakily old-fashioned screed about Christian selflessness and charity, staged and shot like a Lifetime movie-of-the-week that runs at least an hour too long. The only pleasure I received from the film came in the form of a lady sitting three seats to my right who let out a “hmmm” after every single foreseeable plot twist. If her reaction is any indicator that the Burton sisters’ treacly gibberish about redemption might turn this little dud into 2003’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding, please don’t hesitate to shoot me now.

 Cast: Ursula Burton, Shirley Jones, Cloris Leachman, Jill Eikenberry, Frank Gorshin, Louise Fletcher, Seymour Cassel, Shelley Duvall, Wendy Malick  Director: Gabrielle C. Burton, Maria Burton  Screenwriter: Gabrielle C. Burton  Distributor: Five Sisters Productions  Running Time: 119 min  Rating: PG  Year: 2001  Buy: Video

Nick Schager

Nick Schager is the entertainment critic for The Daily Beast. His work has also appeared in Variety, Esquire, The Village Voice, and other publications.

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