Kirk Cameron stars as Caleb Holt, a heroic fire captain who values dedication and service to others above all else. But the most important partnership in his life, his marriage is about to go in smoke. This gripping story follows one man's desire to transform his life and marriage through the healing power of faith and fully embrace the fireman's code: Never Leave Your Partner Behind.
Subtlety has never been a forte for Alex and Stephen Kendrick- both of whom are pastors at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia- and it shows abundantly in Fireproof, their latest attempt at combining faith with storytelling. So here’s my advice- pick this up only if you’re a Christian or you’re willing to watch this with an open mind.
Though this may ostensibly seem like a movie about fire-fighting or fire-fighters, it is really about just one firefighter, Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron), whose marriage of seven years is breaking apart. His wife, Catherine (Erin Bethea) wants a divorce and Caleb is about ready to give up on the marriage. But his father, John (Harris Malcom), gives him a book known as The Love Dare, a 40-day how-to-save-your marriage regimen with a distinct Christian flavour.
No doubt the number forty was chosen for a special significance- indeed, Christian viewers will know the many Biblical references to this number. And through these forty days, Caleb will learn especially to examine his life through the lens of God, acknowledging the need for God in both his life and also his marriage- it’s called making your marriage “fireproof”.
Well-intentioned though it may be, Fireproof does get too heavy-handed at the start- even for Christian viewers. Perhaps a result of their occupational hazard, the Kendricks (both of whom wrote the screenplay) prefer to tell than to show. Consequently, John’s first advice to his son Caleb seems altogether awkward- would you lurch into a sermon about how your son needs to find God when your son is telling you about his marital woes?
But what really takes the cake is how Caleb lurches into a conversation about sacrifice and selflessness in marriage just as father and son, upon their walk in a park, stumble upon a wooden cross erected in the middle of nowhere; and quite immediately, Caleb is overcome with enlightenment and becomes a believer. Like I said- subtlety isn’t exactly their forte.
Fortunately, the latter half of the movie gains much traction from toning down the preaching and religious rhetoric a notch. It focuses rightly on demonstrating how Caleb and Catherine make at first slow and difficult, but sure, steps towards resolving the issues in their marriage. Yes, most importantly, it feels real unlike its rather awkward first half.
Fireproof certainly has benefited from its bigger budget- now that the Kendricks have gained some clout after their unexpected success with Flywheel and Facing the Giants. There is none of the shoddy camera work that made their debut seem like a high school project. Though most of the cast members are still amateurs from the Kendricks’ congregation (Kirk Cameron of TV’s Growing Pains the exception), at least their performances here are less clumsy than those in the Kendricks’ previous.
Still, Fireproof is a movie best reserved for its target audience. Faith and storytelling need not be an obtuse fit (as the movie’s second half aptly shows), but its uneven and clunky first half will probably turn most other viewers away. Nevertheless, if you’re willing to stick it out to the end, you’ll still find that this story of two people trying to make their marriage work has enough to move you.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
Filmmakers Commentary: Surprisingly engaging commentary by director/ screenwriter Alex Kendrick and fellow screenwriter Stephen Kendrick on the inspiration behind each scene in the movie and some hidden symbolism that one may have missed while watching the movie. You can tell they put a lot of passion into making this.
Firegoofs/ Jokes and Pranks: Basically some less interesting outtakes and other more interesting jokes and pranks the cast and crew played on each other on the set of the movie.
Fireproof Behind the Scenes: A 20-minute featurette about the shooting of the film- see this if you want an abbreviation of the filmmakers’ commentary.
Marriage Matters: The cast and crew, as well as volunteers and members from the Kendricks’ church, talk specifically about the film’s main theme and lessons they hope you’ll learn.
Fireproof in 60: A 60-sec fast-forwarded, on-steroids revisit of the movie’s main plot points. All the more amusing if you’ve sat through the movie.
Wayne on Wayne: The comic relief of the movie, Wayne Floyd, telling you in more ways how full of himself he can be.
There are only two major ‘firemen-in-action’ scenes so don’t expect much ‘oomph’ from the Dolby 5.1 track. Visuals are clear and sharp enough, bringing out nicely the suburban neighbourhood in Albany where the movie is mostly set.
by Gabriel Chong