What is Film Forum? Well, with so many film reviews published, and so little time to read them all, I make a note of any review that I find particularly thoughtful, interesting, or persuasive.
Be sure to check back, as I’ve only just begun to read reviews of these films, and I’ll add more interesting excerpts as I come across them. Feel free to submit more reviews, or even your own, in the comments below.
Chris Willman – Entertainment Weekly:
Some of the tenser domestic moments will hit home with battle-scarred marrieds of any religious stripe, and the couple’s problems are candid by evangelical feature standards, although they hardly rate high on the secular dramaturgy scale: He’s got an Internet porn habit, and she’s enjoying an unconsummated flirtation with a doctor at work.
These are temptations faced by Christian and non-Christian couples alike, but the filmmakers hedge their bets by making the young marrieds agnostic at the start of the movie, in order to turn Fireproof into a manual for eternal as well as marital salvation. (”I’m in!” Cameron announces to a spiritually mentoring firefighter pal.) You probably can’t blame pastors moonlighting as moviemakers for wanting to pack their film with multiple messages, but the conversion subplot feels shoehorned into the more crucial marital doings, as if coming to Jesus might be just one of a long checklist of steps to restore sizzle to your marriage, right between buying roses and preparing a candlelit dinner.
Peter Chattaway – Christianity Today Movies
Like most Christian films, Fireproof includes a scene in which the protagonist makes a decision for Christ, but one of the things I like about the Kendricks’ films—including not only Fireproof and Facing the Giants but also their first film, Flywheel—is that this moment usually comes about halfway through the story, instead of at the end, which is where it normally happens in Billy Graham and Left Behind movies. Where those other films treat first-time commitments and rededications to Christ as the climax to the story, like the wedding at the end of a fairy tale, the Kendricks show these moments of decision to be true turning points; the person who lived one way at the beginning of the film learns how to live another way by the end.
However, in Fireproof, it is not quite clear how essential Caleb’s conversion is to his efforts to save his marriage. Flywheel and Facing the Giants concerned men who already had some sort of connection to a church community, but Caleb only has his parents and a friend or two for spiritual support. The Kendricks have said that Caleb needs to know Christ if he is to love his wife as Christ loved the church—but by that same token, shouldn’t he also be involved in an actual church? What if someone were to follow the steps outlined in The Love Dare without being a Christian? 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.
But let’s not quibble too much. They say an audience will forgive a movie’s flaws if it gives them a solid ending, and Fireproof definitely has that.
Neil Genzlinger -The New York Times
“Fireproof” may not be the most profound movie ever made, but it does have its commendable elements, including that rarest of creatures on the big (or small) screen: characters with a strong, conservative Christian faith who don’t sound crazy.
. . . The screenwriters, the brothers Alex Kendrick (who also directed) and Stephen Kendrick, give the story some pull by not making Catherine into the usual neglected wallflower of a wife. Instead she’s a publicist at a hospital who spends most of the film contemplating whether to hop into bed with one of the doctors.
For two-thirds of the movie, the filmmakers show a restraint rare in the movie-with-a-Message genre, so much so that the two most appealing characters are those nudging Caleb toward Christianity (Mr. Malcom and Ken Bevel as a fellow firefighter).
. . . But the cast of mostly amateurs (Mr. Cameron of “Growing Pains” being the exception) is surprisingly good. And the moments of comic relief are mildly amusing.
Only at the end do the filmmakers get heavy-handed, and they seem not to know when to wrap up, letting the movie run on for several smarmy scenes beyond its natural endpoint. Until then, though, this is a decent attempt to combine faith and storytelling that will certainly register with its target audience.
And maybe with other folks as well: among those caring-for-marriage tips are some that anyone could use to improve any type of relationship, with or without the God part.
Richard Corliss – TIME:
Fireproof is a Christian parable, a sermon ornamented with a story, about a firefighter named Caleb (Kirk Cameron) whose marriage with Catherine (Erin Bethea) is falling apart. This theological imperative makes the film an anomaly among current releases. But almost as daring is its tackling of that taboo movie subject, an ordinary marriage. This isn’t a weepie, where the beautiful wife is dying, or a thriller, with one spouse trying to kill the other—just two people facing the burdens of living together after the first passion has ebbed, when the idle words and gestures of the person you used to love threaten to ascend to the level of war crimes.
…In theory, Fireproof is as alien to me as Religulous is familiar. At more than two hours, the film will make those viewers restless who aren’t utterly resistant. But there’s something affecting about its artless earnestness, its aim to dramatize large portions of ordinary lives that most movies ignore. I wasn’t converted, but I was charmed.
I finally got around to watching Fireproof, and I liked it. I liked it in the way that in the same way that I “like” sermons that call to mind something important even if I don’t like the way they are presented. There are so many parts in which Fireproof is awful, clumsy, and unprofessional in all the ways we would expect it to be. But I can completely imagine people walking away from it with better ideas about marriage and relationships. I keep waiting to feel some intense reaction to it as a flawed work of Christian art and thought. I guess it isn’t coming. Part of this is may be because I don’t think of it as a “film” as much as a class project put on by some well meaning person at the Bob Jones film school.