The last time I wrote about the film “Fireproof” I had admittedly not seen it yet.
But now that it has become the indie hit of 2008 and has been released on DVD, I have taken the time to watch it. Unfortunately, the viewing experience did nothing to change my opinion about the fundamental flaws of this movie specifically or even of this genre of movie in general.
Here’s my litmus test for how I detected “Fireproof’ was going to be sappy, cliche, and preachy. Did the story give away everything in the first ten minutes and then continue to beat me over the head with the same message for the next 90 minutes? “Fireproof” certainly did that. If I had no idea what the plot was before I watched the movie, I would have figured it out less than five minutes into the movie, when Captain Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron) says to a co-worker after putting out a fire, “Never leave your partner.” This scene is of course immediately followed by a scene where his wife ,who works at a hospital , bumps into a new doctor and makes goo-goo eyes at him while nurses stand by and whisper. This movie is about a marriage on the rocks and how God redeems it. Check…
But then I have to sit through various scenes that include comparing marriage to a treadmill, comparing women to roses, and comparing marriage to… I can’t remember exactly anymore, but a whole lot of other banal inanimate objects, Yet Caleb goes on a “Love Dare” and like it only happens in movies, in a matter of weeks his marriage is completely restored and wonderful once again.
Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t doubt the good intentions of the producer and director, Stephen and Alex Kendrick, and I don’t doubt the sincerity of their lead actor, Kirk Cameron. I also realize that the Kendrick brothers feel that their work is a ministry and they are reaching out first and foremost to a Christian audience- obviously with success. But whether targeting Christians or the spiritually skeptical, the theology in this movie is lightweight, the storytelling is mediocre at best , and I fail to see how that should be so acceptable to so many in the greater evangelical community.
It takes more than faith to make transcendental art. It takes artistic excellence, and it takes deep examination of the human condition. It’s something Christian artists centuries ago understood, but postmodern Christianity still struggles to grasp.