Movie Review for Fireproof (2008)

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Review #691 of 365
Movie Review of Fireproof (2008) [PG] 122 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $10.50
Where Viewed: Harkins Ciné Capri at Northfield 18, Denver, CO
When Seen: 26 September 2008 @ 1:25 pm
DVD Release Date: Unscheduled (please check back)
After the Credits: There is nothing

Soundtrack: order the CD below

Directed by: Alex Kendrick (Facing the Giants)
Screenplay by: Alex Kendrick (Facing the Giants) • Stephen Kendrick (Facing the Giants)

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Kirk Cameron ("Growing Pains") • Erin Bethea (Facing the Giants) • Ken Bevel (debut) • Harris Malcom (debut) • Phyllis Malcom (debut) • Perry Revell (debut)

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From the people who brought you Facing the Giantscomes Fireproof, the story of a firefighter's struggle to rebuild his struggling marriage following a handwritten set of steps given him by his father called "The Love Dare"--a 40 day journey of re-discovery. As far as the cinematic experience goes, Fireproof is about as cliché driven as it can be. Where it's church fundraiser predecessor succeeded this film does not, and ends up coming across more like a Christian After School Special for Grown Ups with manufactured marital troubles. If you fall into that category, by all means, see this movie you may benefit. Plus there's a website:, promoted heavily during the credits to help if the film's not quite enough or not playing in your area.

As an instructional video the film succeeds kind of like a week at Vacation Bible School. If you're not Christian or consciously avoiding religion for that matter, this film's probably not for you. In that, if the film is meant to help proselytize the word of the Lord, it's got too many plot problems for that to work. (gulp) I hate saying this because I really don't mean to hurt the co-writers', Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick, feelings, but it might even unintentionally scare people away. Part of the reason is that the leading actress, no match for seasoned TV vet Kirk Cameron on screen, never seems genuine, either because of her lack of acting chops or her poorly written and conceived character or both. But, I'm a little ahead of myself.

The story, again, is about a couple, married, believe it or not, for seven years, inexplicably without children. Caleb (Kirk Cameron) is the captain of a firehouse of mostly dense firefighters, one of whom is a new cadet just learning the hoses so to speak, and the others are window dressing with the exception of Michael Simmons (Ken Bevel) who serves as Caleb's best friend and confidant. Caleb's wife, Catherine (Erin Bethea) is the Director of Public Relations at the local hospital where there seems to be an endless need for television interviews of all the amazing doctors on staff who've all won awards for their cancer research recently apparently necessitating her job. We meet the couple in their kitchen one morning when Caleb comes home from the firehouse just as she's about to leave for work. There's no food for breakfast, and he asks if she's saved him any cereal, which she hadn't explaining that she didn't know he was coming home. This couple of seven years is perfunctory in every way. They don't know how to use a calendar, so she'd know he schedule. They don't know how to use a shopping list so he'd know what to bring home from the store on his way. And, while I'm a staunch supporter of equality in marriage and 100% shared responsibility, and I'm no expert in marriage counseling, the way she talks to him about how he never does anything around the house and leaves all of the chores to her when he's just arriving home from rescuing a couple of kids from a car accident seems a bit over the top to me. This seems like the kind of thing you bring up after breakfast. He starts to complain that she doesn't respect him, which clearly she doesn't, and probably rightfully so to a degree, but no less than she doesn't seem to deserve his. As the plot unfurls, though, it becomes clear that both are far from perfect individuals. All too quickly, in my mind however, she leaps to wanting to dissolve their marriage, and starts making goo-goo eyes at this obviously lecherous, though good-looking young doctor at the hospital named, Gavin Keller (Perry Revell).

When Caleb informs his father of their impending divorce, John Holt (Harris Malcom) leaps into action. Both he and Caleb's mother, Cheryl (Phyllis Malcom), are shocked at their son's decision. Caleb behaves badly toward his mother, and his father comes to his rescue presenting him with "The Love Dare"—a handwritten book that takes a person on a 40-day journey back into love with their spouse. He claims it saved his marriage with Caleb's mother, and now they love each other more than ever. Caleb commits to the process if only half-heartedly at first. Unfortunately, Catherine is so smitten with Gavin, she doesn't notice Caleb's gestures to reconcile. She rebuffs them and believes the office gossip that Caleb's probably up to this change of heart to ensure he gets a good settlement in the divorce. Clearly, Caleb is a little narcissistic, but she's the Ice Queen from the Chronicles of Narnia. Caleb keeps trying, and his father refuses to let him give up. And, you'll have to read the spoiler to find out what happens!

The chief problem with the film is both the actress who portrays and the role of Catherine. Her character is entirely shallow and pale. Therefore, she's unable to achieve any sense of chemistry between the two characters making it all the more difficult to understand why Caleb would work so hard to win her back. Her lack of interest in the marriage and quick jumping of ships is never addressed in the film. She goes to great lengths to make him feel bad about himself and their marriage. She treats his gestures like they are evil, while she's pining away for Gavin. When an acquaintance points out that Gavin knows she's married and yet still pursues their relationship which could be a sign he's not a very good man. Catherine immediately goes on the defensive and leaves the conversation. Certainly, there are bad husbands in the world. And Caleb wasn't perfect, but he's a pretty cool guy, well-liked at the firehouse, hard-working, respected, and could probably have found someone to cheat on Catherine with a lot easier than she did, but he didn't. It is made to seem like he might have a bit of a computer porn problem, but who if married to this disrespectful harpy wouldn't? He's not a Saint after all. Honestly, the character of Catherine seemed unrealistically drawn, and the portrayal was inconsistent.

When it comes to the movie as a whole, it is too singularly focused on the Caleb-Catherine relationship making all of the ancillary scenes one-step removed from filler. As a case in point, there's a couple of scenes having to do with Caleb teaching another firefighter not to brag by gulping down a bottle of hot sauce in 23 seconds and then challenging him to do the same. The other guy, of course, cannot do it because his is really hot sauce, and Caleb's was tomato juice. There are also annoying analogies littering the script. For example, salt and pepper shakers should never be apart just like a husband and wife, even though they are very different. So pleased with this analogy, the writers managed to keep bringing this one up (hint: look at the wedding cake at the end of the film).

The one truly redemptive part of the film is Kirk Cameron's portrayal of Caleb. He starts of a bit rocky, but as the film gets further underway, the actor we all grew to love as the snarky teen Mike Seaver on "Growing Pains" has grown up a passionate and spiritually awake actor. You can tell that he deep down believes in what he's doing, and despite the contrived story designed to sell the liturgy, his delivery is emotionally candid and genuinely vulnerable. Like the religious overtones or not, there are probably a lot of young men out there who could learn something, religion aside, from his character. Caleb becomes the young man we'd like every young man to become—maybe not as religiously indebted, but good nonetheless. Wouldn't it be great if people would be good not because of a 2,000 year old book or because of a perceived reward of heaven and after-life, but simply because it is the right thing to be?

…The one truly redemptive part of the film is Kirk Cameron's portrayal of Caleb
Nonetheless, you have to appreciate the Kendrick Bros. and their church for trying to make a difference especially in a sea of films created not necessarily to do the right thing but rather to drive box office earnings. When compared to their last film, though, Fireproof is not as strong overall. It focuses to singularly on the Caleb/Katherine couple and their troubles. The ancillary characters are too weakly drawn. The ending drops the ball and there's never reconciliation when it comes to the Dr. Gavin / Katherine relationship, for which also she never apologizes or even acknowledges. She's equally guilty of these problems but it becomes his job to fix things while she's flirting with Dr. Two-timer who is also apparently married. This film has more platitudes, crosses, and Bible passages, than Facing the Giants and a few hours of Sunday School combined. Christianity is more omnipresent throughout, rather than just a firm belief in God. So, for those who aren't as into a religiously symbolic film, Fireproof is not for you. Likewise, and unlike Facing the Giants, Fireproof is not a movie for kids or even young adults who would probably run kicking and screaming from the theatre. It could be G-rated, but it has a very grown-up themed story they will mostly find boring. There are also nearly no kids in the picture at all except the ones in the car accident and a young girl Caleb saves from her burning home.

For those who go to see Fireproof expecting the feelings of Facing the Giants, prepare to be very disappointed. While the film has a good, albeit overly contrived ending with a couple of twists planted to extract even more sympathy, it's nowhere nearly as uplifting or satisfying on the whole as Facing the Giants.

…nowhere nearly as uplifting or satisfying on the whole as Facing the Giants.
Kendrick Bros., you cannot win them all, but don't give up trying. There is a market for your film, and you could expand upon it if you'd not bathe your film in one segment of the religious population, but appeal more generally, like your first film did, to the larger sphere of people just trying to live their lives right and whom would benefit from general affirmation.

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Related Products from
Other Projects Featuring Fireproof (2008)
Cast Members
Kirk CameronErin BetheaKen Bevel
Harris MalcomPhyllis MalcomPerry Revell
Alex Kendrick
Alex KendrickStephen Kendrick

Review-lite Fireproof (2008) [max of 150 words]
Facing the Giants fans need to be prepared for Fireproof, also from the Brothers Kendrick is nowhere nearly as uplifting. While Kirk Cameron stands out in his role, his nemesis character and actor, Erin Bethea, are not up to the task creating an uneven pairing and film altogether. Far more steeped in Christianity, the film plays out like An After School Special for Grown Ups with marital problems.

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