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‘Fireproof’ obeys movie laws

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–Caleb Holt, a fireman, and his wife Catherine are on the brink of divorce. And mainly out of respect for his father, Caleb consents to taking a 40-day experiment called “The Love Dare” before the final papers are signed. Caleb’s attempts, however, are met with indifference from Catherine, and he is further frustrated when he discovers the book is tied to his parent’s newfound faith.

As the frustration builds, Caleb asks his father, “How am I supposed to show love to somebody who constantly rejects me?” His father wisely counsels him, helping Caleb understand that to find this kind of love, he must first understand God’s patient and tender love for him. It’s not until Caleb reasons a need for a relationship with Christ that he develops a love that unites a man and woman as one.

OK, let’s get it out of the way: Yes, the new movie “Fireproof” has an agenda. It clearly states that you need Christ on the throne of your life and at the center of your marriage.

But here’s what sets it apart from the plethora of well-intentioned spiritually themed movies dedicated to the proposition that the message must come first: Brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick (“Facing the Giants,” “Flywheel”) never overwhelm the entertainment value with a proselytizing lesson.

The Kendricks keep in mind that they are making a movie and must adhere to the laws of movie-making. Which are? Entertainment first. Want to get a message across? Make sure the audience is engrossed and likes your protagonists.

Fireproof has the usual filmmatic shortcomings associated with well-meaning religious storytelling. This awkwardness is seen especially in the opening scenes, when both the actors and introductory dialogue seem clumsy and forced. But within minutes, something special happens -– we begin to get caught up in the narrative. Now, narrative (story), for you younger readers, is an element that was once the dominant ingredient in movie-making before comic book concepts became cinematic overlords. So, it’s nice to again see an involving tale, one where you grow to care about the lead characters and their fates. At the same time, the film extols biblical principles and addresses nagging spiritual questions. This is something I seldom see in theatrical releases. And I mean very seldom.

Kirk Cameron gives the most mature, complex performance of his career. Like Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey, Cameron’s Caleb Holt is a good man, but a real one, one with flaws and foibles. Cameron is willing to display negative traits that seldom take focus in movie protagonists. Supported by Erin Bethea’s three-dimensional portrait as the firefighter’s wife, Kirk and company approach the important issue of the sanctity of marriage. In a culture that promotes the quick disposal of friendships and marriages at the first hint of dissatisfaction, here is a movie that declares lifelong unions are worth fighting for.

Marriage is more than a contract, according to the film; it’s a covenant. And that word covenant suggests a spiritual, lifelong and consecrated commitment. That theme is driven home in Fireproof, not in an attempt to rebuke those who have already been blinded long enough to forsake their “I Dos,” but to aid other couples in danger of losing their focus.
Phil Boatwright reviews for previewonline.org.

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  • Phil Boatwright