A disjointed amalgamation of Kirk Cameron fireman scenes and how to go soul-winning leaflets, Fireproof is at least sixty-five percent hard Christianity pitch, but in between all of that proselytizing, there’s a below-average--but not terrible-- family drama waiting to break out. Too bad it was smothered to death by preachy asides and a pathological need to thank El Shaddai for creating all of us in spite of our hoo-hah-loving, lazy, unfaithful selves.
Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron) is a talented and dedicated fire captain with a slew of off-the-clock problems. His wife Catherine (Erin Bethea), a hospital worker who might be Kristen Wiig’s twin, hates him and wants a divorce. His father (Harris Malcom) keeps shoving Jesus down his unwilling throat, and he obsesses over internet pornography. We’re never shown which sites he subscribes to, but I’m guessing it’s MILF Hunter. Or Asian fetish videos. Or maybe toe-fucking tutorials. The superficial upstanding citizens are always the most perverted smut-consumers.
After a mildly offensive brouhaha eerily reminiscent of an Orbit commercial post dirty mouth clean-up, Catherine openly wonders if divorce might solve all their problems. Caleb’s born-again father isn’t enthralled with the possibility of his son breaking God’s marital covenant and sends him a forty day challenge called “The Love Dare”, which brought he and his wife back together.
“The Love Dare” is basically a notebook filled with a swarm of Bible verses and Ann Landers-like suggestions to help keep your wife from boning other dudes. Caleb vows to surprise Catherine with a special little treat each morning, but unfortunately, she’s already beginning to emotionally detach, as she’s smitten with a backwoods doctor who’s down with other people’s pussy (yeah, you know him). With the help of his father and a fellow firefighter whose marriage is going swimmingly thanks to praying, Caleb perseveres and continues trying to woo the woman he loves.
Fireproof is better than its devout, intrusive, overly-religious plot might first indicate. Kirk Cameron comes off as a realistic and grounded firefighter. His wife has more depth and more of a storyline than your average throwaway female character, and the cinematography is on par with the majority of Hollywood dramas. There’s even a pleasant little recurring gag with Caleb’s neighbors, but by and large, Fireproof fails because of its own obtrusive agenda. What Michael Moore is to leftist chicanery, this film is to conservative cockamamie. And, sadly, it doesn’t even care how awkward it comes off or how much it must manipulate its own plot to achieve its eternal salvation.
A good firefighting movie needs chaos. It requires drama and edge-of-your-seat action. The blazes in Fireproof are relegated to side plot sleepers. Director Alex Kendrick spends so much time smiting the audience over the head with following in the footsteps of James and Peter and Amos and Methuselah and whoever the hell else got down with G-O-D that putting out life-threatening fires barely seems like a priority. After all, as one character so elegantly put it, if they die, they know where they’re going.
I suspect most people who will see this movie also already have their afterlife planned out. Regrettably for them, Fireproof is unlikely to convert many heathens. As much as it tries to make Christianity look like the bees’ knees, I’m confident in saying the majority of atheists won’t rethink their lives after seeing Kirk Cameron take a baseball bat to his filthy, porn-loving computer. Then again, before 1990, I wouldn’t have predicted Mike Seaver would spend his life jerking off to an invisible superhero. I guess not everything is Fireproof.