October 10, 2008

‘Fireproof’ May Be Corny, but That’s OK

By Jeff DeBell Special to The Roanoke Times

"Fireproof" features a predictable script, low-budget production values and a mostly amateur cast. It looks more like a TV movie than a theatrical release, and some will finds its pro-Christian message downright corny.

But in this case, corny is OK. The audience applauded not once but twice during one Saturday-afternoon showing at Tanglewood Mall's Carmike 10 theater. "Fireproof" is boffo in the heartland, and it deserves the positive reception it has received.

"Fireproof" is a production of Sherwood Pictures, known for the popular success of an earlier inspirational film called "Facing the Giants." Former TV star Kirk Cameron plays Caleb Holt, a small-town Georgia firefighter who trains his men to "never leave your partner behind" but is blind to his own failures as a partner at home. His wife, Catherine, a hospital public relations officer, is played by Erin Bethea.

Frustrated by her husband's insensitivity and angry outbursts, Catherine begins divorce proceedings. Caleb responds with myopic anger as usual, but is persuaded by his father (Harris Malcolm) to undertake a 40-day relationship resuscitation program before giving up on the marriage.

The so-called "Love Dare" is a regimen of common-sense advice with scriptural underpinnings. Caleb learns that he must take a good look at himself before he can rebuild his marriage. You don't have to be a Christian to see the sense in that.

Christian faith does have a starring role in "Fireproof," of course. That's Sherwood Pictures' thing, and it is handled gracefully and without heavy-handedness. But the film is equally powerful as a portrayal of how even well-intentioned spouses can err and how desperately hard it can be to repair the damage. In real life, many of the stories don't end as happily as the one in "Fireproof."

Cameron is virtually the only professional actor in the movie, which was filmed in Georgia. The amateurism shows sometimes, but it also gives the picture a certain charm. And it doesn't hurt that, for once, the Southern accents in a movie are genuine.

"Fireproof" limits itself to two action sequences, perhaps to save money, but director Alex Kendrick makes them exciting and plausible. He and co-screenwriter Stephen Kendrick, his brother, also leaven the drama with effective bits of firehouse and suburban funny stuff.

At just over two hours, "Fireproof'" is a bit long as movies go. But a credible story about building good marriages -- and healing sick ones -- should be worth at least that much of anyone's time.

"Fireproof"

***

At Carmike 10 at Tanglewood Mall and Valley View Grande 16. Rated PG for adult content. Two hours, 2 minutes.

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