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Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

‘Fireproof': Not Exactly My DVD Pick of the Week

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.

  • http://TheologyAndCulture.wordpress.com Aaron

    While I agree with your review, I don’t think they were going for “transcendental art.” If they were aiming for that, it’s a fair criticism– otherwise, it’s fluff.
    I am saddened by the shallowness of contemporary evangelicalism, especially in the arts, where our forebears were able to make such masterpieces (as you pointed out).
    And while this film was cheesy and “Christianese,” I think it did exactly what it was trying to accomplish. It won the ‘battle,’ but we are still struggling in the greater ‘war.’

  • Duane

    I am a pastor and I appreciate great films (I love foreign and indie films) and yes Fireproof is low budget, and yes the story could have been a little deeper but all in all it is entertaining and the message itself is solid.
    Certainly marriage problems can be complex but I have discovered that the great majority of marriage problems I encounter in counseling are rooted in selfishness which this movie did a good job of pointing out and the solution they offered was equally clear; stop being selfish, love like Jesus loved. How hard is that? While you and others may find that old news that is actually revolutionary idea for most people, including those sitting in the pews of our churches.
    When the movie was released my wife and I decided to make a date of it. Earlier in the day I was in my office and a young man came in weeping that his marriage was in shambles and he didn’t know what to do. I knew the problem because I had counseled them both numerous times although they never stuck with it. They were very self-centered and their selfishness had bred a terrible resentment between them. I invited them to come to see the movie with us that night and they agreed. They wept through most of the movie. Afterward they said “We didn’t realize what we were doing to each other and how terrible it was until we saw it played out.” From that day (a single day…not even 40 days) until the present their marriage has done a 180. They are like newlyweds and the turn around has impacted their children and their whole family immediate and extended.
    So I would encourage you to step back and consider the positive impact this film has had an is having. While the film may be a little hokey it is addressing something not being addressed in other films; a message everyone needs to hear.
    Consider this; had a big studio controlled this picture the wife would have had a torrid affair with the doctor, the husband would have turned to alcohol and hired a prostitute, and after the relationship had been completely and utterly devastated they would somehow end up back in bed together completely reconciled and happy after a night of passionate lovemaking…roll the credits. Now that’s a real Hollywood movie ending.
    Peace,
    Duane
    PS: When is your new transcendent Christian movie going to be released? I can’t wait to see it! :-)

  • Kris

    I didn’t really mean to imply that this movie hoped to be transcendent. And clearly many movies don’t reach that level. But, it still doesn’t excuse not tryin to be more than schlock. And for every ppastor who tells me how this movie helped a marriage, all I can say is, that’s great. Yet have you asked how many more seekers are completely turned off ny one more example of flimisy Christianity? How many opportunities are lost because we keep living in a Christian ghetto?
    As far as my transcendental movie, it’s in pre-production. Along with the accompanying stage play and book. I know many others who also hope t make a truly worthy piece of art . Stuff like Fireproof doesn’t help the battle.

  • Duane

    As for these guys producing “schlock” I really don’t think that is what they were shooting for in fact I think they did the best they could with the money and experience they have.
    Remember this is a church using volunteers not a professional studio. Maybe as brothers and sisters in Christ we should reach out to help them in their efforts rather than criticize them for how poorly they are doing. If Christian people with experience in the industry came together and helped imagine what could be accomplished!
    As for the “seekers” turned off by the movie, I’m going to have to disagree. I think there is something much deeper going on in the mind and heart of a person who would use the shoddy production work and poor acting in a Christian movie as an excuse for rejecting the all loving and sinless Son of God who offers them salvation.
    As for the Christians ghetto…I think all those cheesy Christian tee-shirts, WWJD bracelets, and other Jesus Junk imported from China is doing much more to marginalize Christians than Fireproof ever will.
    Peace

  • Duane
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