Last night, my dear wife and I saw the movie Fireproof, starring Kirk Cameron and a lot of people I didn't recognize.
Short review: see it.
Longer review: this is from the people who brought us Facing the Giants. That was a good movie; this is better.
We meet fireman Caleb Holt, whose marriage to Catherine is on the rocks. Sharp, jagged, deadly rocks. The movie looks over both of their shoulders, seeing how they deal (or don't deal) with the issues threatening to end their union.
As the story moves on, we meet Caleb's parents (— his dad physically resembles J. I. Packer with a Southern accent; somehow Caleb and Catherine didn't pick up their parents' accents) as well as Catherine's. Coworkers at the fire station and the hospital are brought in and developed in living color, often to genuinely hilarious effect. Everyone "feels" real, and dialogue matches with performance to populate the movie with believable, three-dimensional characters.
What Fireproof does have is drama, suspense, action, a lot of laughs, emotional resonance, tension, and resolution. What it doesn't have is foul language, gratuitous violence, blasphemy, sex. And it has the Gospel, and the Word of God.
As a movie, the production values are decent, and the acting is professional and heartfelt. Only two parts gave me the feeling that the beloved church secretary had been given a role because everyone adores her — and they weren't all that bad. They just stood out because of the overall quality of the main performances.
As a rule, movies have to work pretty hard to make my wife laugh, and she was rolling, as was I. The humor was fresh and crackling, as many of the emotions were raw and moving. There actually are several sequences that are an absolute panic. One in particular interweaves each spouse talking to friends that is so deftly-handled and so funny, I think it'd make a mannequin laugh.
I think the movie would be lost on young children, but anyone over about 12 will benefit from something in Fireproof.
If that's a reservation, then it's the only one I have in heartily recommending it.
Look, if you complain about language, violence, and other nastiness in movies, put your bucks where your mouth is. Find where this is playing hear you, take your wife or friend(s), and see it.
SpoilerySome Christian stories have differed little from Chick tracts, with flat characters and cartoonish situations. Not so here. The marriage isn't troubled; it's about over. Both spouses are in the process of putting their arms around the concept of divorce, and actually seeing it as a preferable solution.
But Caleb's dad is a Christian who says he and his wife have worked through major issues in their marriage. He challenges Caleb to give it forty days, each day doing something that his dad will explain to him in a book, as he goes along. Caleb, though not a Christian, goes along.
At first, his efforts are genuine but minimal and half-hearted. His wife reacts badly, or not at all. It doesn't "work." His dad urges him to stick with it, and he does.
At a critical juncture Dad drives out and shares the Gospel with Caleb. It's a very natural-feeling, effectively-done sequence, and it's pivotal to the plot. Caleb's motivations change, as do his efforts.
But his wife doesn't. She's all but in the arms of another man. It's a near thing, and her own heart changes just in the nick of time.
Like Facing the Giants, the movie has a happy ending — almost too happy. There's a little surprise on top of the ending that's nice... close to too nice. In Facing the Giants, they win, he gets a truck, his wife gets a baby, Lassie comes home, all his hair grows back, Reagan returns for a third term. One feels overkill, and folks have accused the movie of Osteenism.
I doubt anyone will lodge that accusation here. The trials are real, and hard. The discipleship that makes a difference is also gruelling and far from simple. I have no doubt that it will touch a lot of hearts and lives, and pray with my wife that God will use the movie broadly.
Of course it leaves unanswered questions. What if a woman is married to a man who dives into a flurry of activity to stem a crisis, then reveals he's not truly repented at all? What if a man is married to a woman who is so in love with self-manufactured misery that she is impossible to woo or win? What if it doesn't "work"?
And (some will ask) what's up with giving these Biblical principles to an unbeliever to work out? Is that legalism, moralism, the-Bible-as-successful-living-manual?
First, I don't think the movie guarantees it will "work." The forty days aren't presented that way. And besides, it actually doesn't "work" in forty days. When her heart finally starts to soften, she asks him what day he's on. "Forty-three," he answers. She points out it was only for forty days, and he replies, "Who says I have to stop?"
Second, I think the forty days' regimen does serve, in the movie, as the Law should. Caleb finds he can't do it. It's in the context of this, when he's brought low, "tenderized" as it were, that Packer — er, sorry, his father — points him to the law of God and shows him his sin. Then he's ready for the Gospel.
In short, and once again: see it.
PS — it's kind of fun to sit through the end-credits.
1. You can tell it was made by a Baptist church: I don't recall ever seeing so many credits for caterers and food-donors!
2. I also don't recall a movie crediting so many babysitters!
Now, this is remarkable. The review says, “Fireproof” may not be the most profound movie ever made, but it does have its commendable elements, including that rarest of creatures on the big (or small) screen: characters with a strong, conservative Christian faith who don’t sound crazy.
New York Times.
I kid you not.
We showed the movie to our boys, ages 10 and 14. Given that it is a drama about a relationship, though sprinkled with some terrific humor and a dose or two of action, we weren't sure what they'd think. Bored? Tepid? In and out?
They loved it.
The DVD includes some hysterical out-takes and gags, as well as a series of deleted scenes, and very funny "Fireproof in 60 Seconds."