The Kendrick Brothers were the face of Christian cinema for the better part of a decade. One of their most commercially successful films is Fireproof, a story of a firefighter fighting to save his marriage. Produced with a $500000 budget this film went on to gross $33 million at the box office before making even more in DVD sales. The sheer efficiency of this movie is impressive. Good movies on this low of budget need to rely on good story telling, but does Fireproof do this? Spoiler alert.
Our hero is Caleb, a beloved firefighter that can’t get any love at home. So he just spends his time wanking with his pants on in front of his computer. His wife, Catherine, works at a hospital to help pay the bills and then eats all the food in the house. The story begins with this married couple in a cycle of resentment spiraling towards divorce. Caleb’s father is the Friendly Old Guy in this Christian movie who, as a Christian, gives him a 40 day devotional to help his son save his marriage. Caleb puts in the minimal effort at first and gradually starts to care more and more. Catherine rebuffs his attempts to rekindle their relationship and pursues Handsome Doctor.
In order to love his wife, in spite of her persistent rejection, Caleb learns from Friendly Old Guy that he needs to learn what real love is and that love is Jesus. So Caleb becomes a Christian and finishes the rest of the 40 days. And his wife slowly realizes the frivolity of her attempts to cheat on her husband and she breaks down finally appreciating his efforts to love her. Then she becomes a Christian too. That’s it that’s the movie.
To be fair, I think the messaging of the movie received a lot of unfair criticism. The story is about a man pursuing a wife who no longer loves him, and this is used to draw a parallel to the gospel. At no point in the movie, until the end is the wife depicted in a positive light.
In fact, the most painful elements in this movie are the acting and the writing. With Star Wars there is a debate between whether Hayden Christenson was uniquely bad or whether the writing was the issue. And it’s clear that his acting performance was the outlier in the prequel trilogy. In Fireproof, Kirk Cameron can sometimes rise above a bad script, but in general his acting is only adequate in moments of high intensity or levity. There is no in-between and the small talk is especially forced. The female lead could never rise above a bad script except maybe in the most heated arguments. This is the worst lead performance I’ve seen thus far in my series of Christian film reviews.
And with the script, there is no delicate way to put this. It’s a whitewashed script trying to tell a gritty story which doesn’t work. It feels more edgy than a Hallmark movie, but that’s it. The script wants to address the damage that porn does to a marriage but uses cheesy euphemisms to clearly avoid saying the word except for one instance. The marriage arguments are amateur. Trust me on that one. And even Handsome Doctor is whitewashed despite being on the prowl for married women. This movie tries to incorporate divorce, adultery, and pornography, but all three of these things are addressed in a limp-wristed uptight fashion that feels sterile.
And so, Fireproof is the quintessential Christian movie, in both meeting the genre’s rigid expectations and all its shortcomings. And as for its standing in the Kendrick Brother’s catalog, I’d say this movie is better than War Room and Courageous.
I tried a couple times to watch it but couldn’t get around the acting and story line, just too cheesy (but cheesy movies can be good and entertaining, this wasn’t). How do we get around either Christians being way too square vs these grown man pastors in designer skinny jeans and skaterat sneakers (which is obviously forced and an outfit chosen by his wardrobe team, no grown men I see and know dress like that, even in hipster doofess denver, it’s pathetic and isn’t tricking any of the unsaved). Let’s not even get into someone like Mike Todd and his one pair of sneakers for one day of the week worth more than my entire wardrobe, just the sneakers, not including the watch, designer sweatshirt over Italian sport coat and slacks 3 sizes too small, new threads almost every day —
THIS IS WHAT WE PRESENT TO THE WORLD!?!?
Maybe I’m missing the point, and these are movies not meant win any souls or really teach us truths about out sin, etc. Just some safe entertainment. As you mentioned in an earlier article, the sin of pornagraphy that so many Christians are stuck in is some of THE DARKEST stuff in the world. One day it really hit me what I was looking at, it was like hitting rock bottom, and I’m still convicted some from that incredibly convincting time, being part of the demand that drives how it is supplied. That the Lord remembers it no more is true freedom, but a freedom different from “do what thou wilt” that led me to it, a freedom that removed the desire for that sin where as the evil one’s freedom is actually slavery to sin. But I digress… I’m afraid as the world continues to darken (I see blatantly satanic clothing on normal looking kids almost every day now, see the kid interviewed with his mother after the Wisconsin school shooting – Drip Kings ‘the world is yours for the taking’, they don’t show the back of the sweatshirt online but in the news segment you see 666 quite easily) the point I’m very long-windedly trying to make is that we need to have some Christian movies not afraid to push some boundaries, with some big budgets (pg-13 to R). The money is out there for it in a lot of big ministry’s pockets. And I think there’s a market for it too. I recall a popular talk radio program in Denver years back spending a couple days talking about all the Christian references and parallels to Christ in The Matrix, there’s way more than you think and even old testament stuff. They did movie reviews on Fridays and had to have a part 2 the next week as so many people called in wanting to talk about it. It was not a Christian radio program whatsoever but somehow it struck a nerve and I’m sure planted some seeds in people’s minds. There’s demand for discussing these things in the secular world. See, listen really, to some Jordan Petersen podcasts on judeo-christian topics that pull in big secular audiences. People are crying out for an answer but its really hard these days to get past their initial rejections of the gospel. Its like we need to trick them into hearing it!
As a side, but relative, note, the growing pains dad is in a super low budget movie about a disfunctional family trying to inherit the lucrative family business from the dead patriarch. On the Christian movie Channel Postive I think, butni can’t find the name. I’ve caught some great movies on there. Sorry for the length of my comment. I have soooo much on my mind, just look around at what’s going on! We need to gird up our loins ya’ll.
You site some valid points.
I’m no evangelical, but man does your crew come up with some of the saddest sack and goofy movies and music that’s conceivable. You see this, maybe Fava sees it, but the guys in your camp who produce this gimmick and faddish outreach tools are throwing a net in your own boat or are capitulating to the mega church woke crowd.
No NONE or atheist is buying this pablum, in fact, its poops and giggles fodder, even with your own camp.
It’s like the 50 something woman who dresses and acts like a 21-year-old girl, it looks foolish and pathetic (St John Chrysostom preached a homily about this very topic in the 4th century).