Fireproof — the review’s up!

My review of Fireproof is now up at CT Movies.

Several websites have reported that Fireproof was not screened for critics, and that may be true where the mainstream media are concerned. The distributor did sponsor lots of grassroots screenings, though, and they sent me a screener, possibly because I was writing a few articles on the film in addition to my review.

Incidentally, Nikki Finke and Box Office Mojo report that the film grossed between $2.3 million and $2.6 million yesterday, and it may be on track to gross over $7 million for the weekend, making it one of the top five films this week. That would give it the biggest opening weekend of any independent evangelical film ever, beating the $6.2 million grossed by Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie on its way to a $25.6 million cume in 2002.

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  • Sir-

    For the record, I love reading your movie reviews. I read you after seeing most movies and am always edified. This was especially the case with your review of Fireproof over at CT. Nevertheless, I did have two quibbles.

    1. You say early on that the first hour was “uneven.” I could agree with that. However, one scene you point to as evidence of this was the scene where Caleb blows up at his wife. You say “the outburst is completely out of proportion to what has come before. Yes, arguments have a way of escalating, but nothing we see of Caleb before or after that scene seems to suggest he has that sort of rage coiled up inside him.” I think if we’re being unrealistic, your statement is true. What I enjoyed about these tense scenes, however, was their reality. Though we weren’t privy to the buildup in marital tension, his outburst didn’t seem out of place at all. Yes, arguments do have a way of escalating, and much of the time into irrational anger. Unfortunately, I speak from experience. Marriage means all boundaries are gone. And the unfortunate side-effect of this is that anger surfaces much more quickly, more unreasonably. So if we were judging this scene according to its Hollywood believability, you would be correct. But if we judge it according to real life, I think you are off base. I sat uneasily through these scenes because they were so life real life.

    2. Near the end of the review you focus attention on the film’s scene of evangelism and conversion. I appreciated your take on it. You did, however, make one observation I don’t agree with: “While the film works well enough as an extension of Sherwood Baptist’s marriage ministry, it is hard to escape the feeling that the evangelistic element has been tacked on.” Your point is that the film did not make clear in the plot that the reconcilement between the two leads was based squarely out of Caleb’s conversion. “What if someone were to follow the steps outlined in The Love Dare without being a Christian?” I found myself wondering as I read this, “Did I see the same move Mr. Chattaway did?” A few things: (1) Now if you asked the writers and producers, my sense is that they would not agree with your assessment at all. I am sure it was always their intention to say that marriage won’t be fireproof until it is an outcropping of your relationship with Christ (and that is what they should say). (2) What is interesting is that you seem to say that Caleb’s faith can only be transforming if he has been attending church. Of course connection to the body of Christ is essential to continued sanctification and growth. But it seems in line with biblical theology to say that once Caleb came to faith, he experienced true transformation that allowed him to make the behavior change that was originally brought about by following the steps in the guide, into true change. The movie makes plain that had he not trusted in Jesus, he would have either quit the process altogether, been unable to convince his wife that he actually loved her or, more realistically, not been able to find love for her again at all. (3) The concluding scene, which you extol, solidifies the film’s dependence on the conversion scene. Catherine says as she walks to Caleb (paraphrased), “I don’t know why you have changed, but I want to know what did it.” Though it’s true that she finally returns to Caleb when she discovers that final thing, she sees this as the final symptom of a deeper change in his life.

    So those are my thoughts. Thanks for all you do.

  • Ryan, thank you very much for your thoughtful comments.

    Re: the scene where Caleb blows up at his wife. Have you checked out the deleted scenes on the DVD? It turns out that one of them, in which Caleb overhears something that his wife says to a friend of hers about the state of their marriage, was intended to “set up” the scene where Caleb blows up at her. I don’t know why the scene was cut — possibly because of the “uneven” pacing of the first part of the film in general, perhaps — but if it had stayed in the film, the scene where Caleb blows up might not have seemed so out-of-the-blue. At any rate, it was good to get a better sense of what was going through the actors’ and characters’ minds at that moment.

  • Thanks for the heads up. I will have to watch that. I tend to skip the deleted scenes. Usually, they were edited out for a good reason. I haven’t seen the scene you are talking about, but I can’t help but think that it was cut intentionally. And since writing you, I have re-watched that scene and still don’t see what you saw. Caleb’s blowup seemed warranted (not right, warranted), as his wife was cutting into him deeply about something he was most assuredly embarrassed about (watching porn).

    But that is neither here nor there. Thanks again for your response.