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‘Fireproof’ a Big League film

EDITORS’ NOTE: This story is part of a series of Baptist Press stories about Fireproof, which hits theaters Sept. 26. To read an overview of the movie click here. To read how churches can get involved click here. Stories about movie volunteers are available here and here. Finally, a story about the director and producer is available here.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–When you’re in the media, you’re often given the opportunity to watch a movie before it’s available in the theaters or in stores. The goal by those in public relations, of course, is to get you to like the movie and write about it.

Believe me, I’ve seen quite a few films we’ll just classify here as “duds.” But occasionally I watch a movie and feel compelled to jump on board. Such is the case with “Fireproof,” the latest theatrical release from the makers of “Facing the Giants.” It will hit theaters Sept. 26, but those attending the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference in Indianapolis this summer had an opportunity to watch it on the big screen.

I walked into the theater without any expectations, but walked out after the closing credits believing I had just seen perhaps the most convicting and inspiring film I had ever viewed. Fireproof isn’t just a great Christian movie. It’s a great movie. Period.

The story stars Kirk Cameron (as Capt. Caleb Holt) and Erin Bethea (as Catherine Holt) and focuses on the story of the struggling marriage of a young couple — he’s a firefighter, she’s a hospital employee — facing a divorce. Not content to see his son and daughter-in-law split, Caleb’s father gives his son a 40-day “Love Dare” journal and encourages him to follow it to the end. Caleb does, and in the process he and Catherine discover the true meaning of love.

Roughly 2,000 pastors and pastors’ wives were at the screening I attended, and many of them responded during the credits with a standing ovation. At another screening, a different audience also stood in applause. I spoke to one friend who said that after watching it, he called his wife to tell her he loved her. Yes, it’s that good.

Christian movies sometimes get low marks from critics for the acting. In Fireproof, acting is a strength. Cameron and Bethea carry the film, but the supporting cast does a fine job, too. (Ken Bevel, who plays Lt. Michael Simmons — Caleb’s close friend — stands out in a supporting role.)

The movie succeeds because it is believable. When the couple argued, I cringed. When they cried, I cried.

The film’s funny moments are, yes, funny, and the special effects scenes — not always a high point with low-budget movies — are convincing.

And, the story and script are amazing, with several plot twists. Each time I thought the movie would wrap up neatly, something unexpected happened.

Fireproof’s budget was $500,000 — five times the budget of Facing the Giants. That’s still a tiny budget by Hollywood standards, but the bigger budget is evident throughout the film.

In the end, though, the movie shines because of its subject — marriage. One out of two marriages in the U.S. ends in divorce. Americans desperately need to see on screen how a failing marriage can be saved. Fireproof does that.

But every married person — if honest — will see themself in the characters. Every marriage has its valleys. Every couple has arguments. And every spouse — just like Caleb and Catherine — has a weakness. For Caleb, it’s Internet pornography, something that is tearing apart marriages at an alarming rate. The film handles the subject in a delicate manner and, during the couple’s arguments, even avoids the words “porn” or “pornography.” (Caleb’s father, writing in the Love Dare journal, does make a passing reference to pornography when listing sinful habits to avoid.) Most young viewers won’t even know what they’re talking about.

After I watched Fireproof the first time, I went to another showing a couple days later and stood off to the side just so I could watch the audience’s reaction during the final 30 minutes. Perhaps, I thought to myself, I had overreacted the first time. Maybe the movie wasn’t as good as I originally thought. But it was. People — men and women — were wiping their eyes. I even saw one older couple give each other a quick peck on the lips when the lights came back up.

Two years ago churches got behind Facing the Giants and made it a box office surprise. Fireproof, though, is far, far better than its predecessor.

This is a Big League movie. Get your church behind it. Mark the weekend of Sept. 26-28 on your calendar. And go see it.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For more information about “Fireproof,” visit FireproofTheMovie.com. For resources, visit FireproofMyMarriage.com.

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  • Michael Foust