Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Out of all the Bible thumpers out there Kirk Cameron has to be my favorite. Sure Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Jack Van Imp and T.D. Jakes are cool and all but I was raised with Kirk Cameron. I had to push aside issues of Tiger Beat with Cameron’s face on the cover to get my latest comic book or Keyboard magazine when I traversed to the local book store thus making Kirk like a contemporary of sorts. Having survived childhood stardom Mr. Cameron now spends his time spreading the Word and largely making Christian themed films, in between ‘Growing Pains’ reunion shows, such as those ‘Left Behind’ flicks from a few years back and now the Christian marriage drama ‘Fireproof’. Though the message in ‘Fireproof’ isn’t exactly what I would call ‘subtle’, it’s still a pretty good film from a director who has shown himself to be quite adept at making pretty good Christian themed movies.

Caleb Holt (Cameron) and his wife Catherine (Erin Bethea) have just about come to the end of the road of their seven year marriage. They both seem to be good enough people with Caleb working as the fearless fire captain for his Albany Georgia fire station and Catherine as a Public Relations liaison for the local hospital. Nonetheless they fight constantly with Caleb feeling that his wife gives him zero respect, which she doesn’t and Catherine tagging her husband as an insensitive internet porn addicted money hoarder, which he is.

Further complicating matters in Catherine’s life is that she spends her weekends helping her elderly father care for her invalid mother, Catherine also often receiving fairly bad advice from her chirping co-workers and she has also gained the attention of the dashing Dr. Anderson (Walter Burnett) who is putting on the full rush despite the fact the Catherine is still a married woman. For his part Caleb, who really is a pretty darned insensitive cat, is getting wonderful advice from his second in command at the

fire station Michael (Ken Bevel) who is in a glorious marriage, and also his father John (Harris Malcolm) is very helpful as he will inform Caleb of how he had his own marital woes with his mother Cheryl (Phyllis Malcolm) and how he managed to fix it. Since Caleb does seem to have a passing interest in saving his marriage his father gives him a book called ‘The Love Dare’ which gives the bearer 40 days of explicit instructions to follow, along with biblical reference, to hopefully fix ones marriage.

With everything to lose Caleb gives it a try though his heart really isn’t in it and is wife is completely unresponsive to his attempts at reconciliation. Though he’s ready to throw in the towel and give it all up, when Caleb finally realizes the importance of Jesus in his marriage and his life in general does a genuine change takes hold. But will it be enough to save his marriage? You know I’m not the one to spoil it for you.

Directed by Alex Kendrick who previously made the surprisingly successful ‘Facing the Giants’, a film I also found quite enjoyable, ‘Fireproof’ does have its issues, but I don’t think these issues derail the film from being both entertaining and uplifting. Technically speaking this film is more polished than Kendrick’s previous films, complete with a couple of very well done and tensely shot action sequences that on one hand highlight the peril of what a firefighter has to go through daily and on the other hand gives the audience an insight into the duality of Caleb Holt’s personality. Performance wise Kirk Cameron and Erin Bethea gave solid performances though neither actor had any kind of real chemistry together, which of course may have worked in the favor of the narrative considering they are at odds, but it does cause one to wonder how the characters got together in the first place. The rest of cast was probably a bit below what we’ve come to expect in a feature film, considering that most of the cast are amateur actors, though all the performances were certainly earnest. I also had a slight issue with the fact the Kirk Cameron didn’t have a southern accent, and it only became an issue when we met his parents. Once we met them with their southern accents I could no longer tell myself that Caleb simply migrated from Chicago to Albany Georgia, and though Harris Malcolm did a fine job as Caleb’s father, it just probably would’ve helped sell the illusion a little better that this man was really his father if they could have gotten a couple of northern sounding Christians to play Caleb’s parents. Also, though I understand the symbolism of Caleb smashing his computer, but destroying a computer will probably do little to cure one from porn addiction and also the internet does have other glorious uses that extend beyond pornography. Now Caleb can’t go to to see the great feedback he’s getting from his movie because he took a bat to his PC.

Now with that out of the way, and understanding I did have and issue or two with the film, none of this stopped me from enjoying it. What Alex Kendrick does know how to do as a film director, and I don’t know if you can go to school to learn how to do this, is that he gives his movies a heart. Yes that sounds a bit hokey, but amidst the melodrama, overbearing messages and a complete lack of subtlety, this is a film that makes you feel better after you leave the theater than you felt before you entered the theater. This is a film that wears its message and its intentions squarely on its sleeve and makes its aims and goals very simple to comprehend. Some people, understandably I think, may have trouble dealing with this, but ultimately I found ‘Fireproof’ refreshing, funny, entertaining and uplifting even though it is undeniably a little bit overbearing.

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