I have observed that Christian film usually falls into two categories.
First, those movies which are so over the top with the presentation of an evangelistic message the movie appears to be hokey. The characters speak of Jesus in an unnatural way, almost in a mystical manner, and often some of the most deplorable theology is defended. Think Thief in the Night.
The second group of movies are those in which Jesus is not even mentioned and God is spoken of as if He were some deistic, impersonal force. It is as if the film makers are embarrassed they are Christians at all, because they take great pains to go out of their way never to mention their faith in any meaningful fashion. Only “Christian” morals and virtues are alluded to and are assumed to be plenty to give the viewer the impression he or she is watching a “religious” film. The William Wilberforce biographical epic, Amazing Grace, from a couple of years ago had this tone attached to it. Here was a well made film, but Wilberforce’s true evangelical convictions which were his motivation to end the slave trade to begin with, were minimized in the film.
More over is the annoying enthusiasm I have faced in times past from Christian peers insistent I embrace such amateur mediocrity because they are “Christian” films in need of support. I am called upon to attend special screenings or host a viewing at my church or whatever. It is as if the biblical admonition to pursue all things with excellence is totally lost in these instances.
Now, with all that in mind, I come to Fireproof. I was willing to spend a couple of hours watching a movie which came dangerously close to replicating what I knew in my heart was going to be just another “Christian” film for a couple of reasons. First, Kirk Cameron, the main player in the film, has attended my church and I have met him on a couple of occasions. He and his wife were sometimes dropping off their kid during the second hour Sunday school when I was picking mine up. But on top of that, I had heard good things about this movie particularly from folks who hold similar aversions to your typical Christian film as I do. Those two things intrigued me.
As much as I was expecting a grimace inducing experience, I am pleased to say I was pleasantly surprised. Now, that is not to say some of those marks of inadequate lameness were not present – they certainly were. But over all, the film did a better job in presentation than other Christian movies with similar themes.
Fireproof had the feel of one of those made for Lifetime women in peril type movies or a Hallmark special in which a couple are shown enduring some severe, emotional trial. In this case, a marriage that has grown cold and an impending divorce. Kirk Cameron plays a fire fighter who has the reputation for public heroism, but privately his marriage has grown sour. Both he and his wife are angry with each other: She feeling he doesn’t love her or show her the proper attention she craves and he believes she doesn’t respect him as a man.
Their marriage is headed fast toward divorce until the father of the husband intervenes with a love dare for his son to follow. It would require forty days (I wonder why not 57? or 23? What is up with everything being 40 days? anyways…) for Cameron’s character to complete and it is designed to woo his wife back to him as he shows her sacrificial love.
Good things I liked:
What I appreciate about the movie is how both Cameron’s character, and his wife, are depicted as having sinful issues in their lives. Usually these situations are shown from a lopsided perspective with one of the spouses being an “innocent” victim. In this case, both of them are rightly shown to be angry and unforgiving.
Also, I like that the gospel is presented in a dignified way. During one of the harder moments of the “love dare”, the father explains to his despairing son that the only way he can really utilize the dare most effectively is by giving his life to Christ. I personally would like to have heard a firmer presentation of God’s wrath against sinners, but the over all main points of the gospel were given and most importantly, the father invokes the name of Jesus Christ, explaining why He had to come and die on the cross.
I also like how Cameron’s character didn’t immediately pray a prayer of salvation upon hearing his father tell him the gospel. He went away and wrestled through what he had been told. Additionally, when Cameron’s character shares his salvation with his wife, she too doesn’t immediately pray a prayer of salvation. In fact, from what I can recall, the movie ends with out us knowing for sure of her salvation.
I further appreciated how the life of Cameron’s character doesn’t immediately turn to hearts and flowers when he gives his life to Christ. Lots of folks are under the mistaken notion that once a person prays the prayer, so to speak, everything begins turning up rosy. This is hardly the case in real life and the movie makers make no attempt to visualize a fantasy view of salvation.
What I didn’t like:
Apart from Cameron’s character and another fellow fire fighter, all the firemen were overweight. Now maybe I am being a bit nit-picky and I would imagine there are husky firemen out there in the world, but flabby, out of shape firemen? I don’t think so.
In spite of the movie makers best efforts, the film still suffered from an amateur production value which only detracted from the film. The acting was terrible, Cameron’s character being the main exception. Again, the overall feel of the movie was that of an ABC After school special. I understand the movie was a group effort of a church congregation. The movie makers kept the production costs low by using local talent (if we can call them talent – like the 6 grade puppet team is “talented”) and while that is commendable in light of the fact the film grossed a ton of money for what it cost to make, my exhortation to these film makers is to invest this blessing into striving for excellent with their next movie. Get some good actors, not local church members who won an award for their senior high production of “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.” It would improve their movies a hundred fold.
One main concern I have is the fall out from this movie. It is my understanding that the “love dare” presented in the film wasn’t real, but merely a plot point for the film. After the success of the movie many pastors, counselors, and individuals in troubled marriages wrote the movie makers looking for a copy of the “love dare.” Though my heart is gladdened there are pastors who wish to help their members “fireproof” their marriages, or individual couples who want to learn to “fireproof” their marriages, I am concerned they will turn the “love dare” into some magical cure-all for their marital woes. What happens to them when after 40 days the “love dare” has not worked like it did for the Kirk Cameron and his wife in the movie? The emphasis should not be on the “love dare,” but the person of Christ, and I am afraid many who will attempt it will miss this vital component to their marriages.
With that stated, I do recommend the movie and I even solicit your opinions in the comments.