Fireproof (2008)

Rated: PG for thematic material and some peril.
Length: 122 minutes
Grade: CB+AB=B+
Budget: $500,000
Box Office: $33 million (33 U.S.)

Written and Directed by: Alex and Stephen Kendrick (Facing the Giants, Flywheel)
Starring: Kirk Cameron, Erin Bethea, Ken Bevel, and Harris Malcolm.

A firefighter and his wife are on the verge of divorce when his father challenges his son to try a forty day marriage rescue program called the Love Dare which intends not only to cultivate love in the home but a relationship with Christ as well.

Entertainment Value: C
This is the third feature length movie from Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, and it certainly feels the same as their previous release, Facing the Giants. You have to go into these movies with the understanding that the acting, the scriptwriting, and the production value are all going to be a far cry from what you’re used to from Hollywood. On the other hand, they tell compelling stories that are explicitly Evangelical. I had to basically force myself to keep watching this one for the first 40 minutes or so, but after that it started to become enjoyable enough that I wasn’t constantly rolling my eyes knowingly at my wife. Like in the first scene when Cameron tells a rookie, “You never leave your partner,” we both chuckled about how this “might” be important to the theme of the movie.

Superficial Content: B+
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity B+, Violence B+, Language A, Illegality A
The MPAA issues here have to do with dangerous situations like fires and rescue operations. Also, Caleb has an ongoing problem with Internet porn, which is mentioned but not shown, and his wife is shown cultivating a relationship with another man a lot. The other thing to be aware of is that there is heavy marital discord and fighting in the beginning, which might be disturbing to younger kids in healthy homes for much the same reason that we don’t let our kids watch Super Nanny because of the bad example.

Significant Content: A
Love looks very different from selfishness. You can’t give away what you don’t possess. You never leave your partner. Whatever you invest your time, money, and effort into is what you will grow to love more and more. Only the love of Christ will give you the ability to freely love in marriage. Marriage is for better or for worse.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
If you’ve ever read Shakespeare, you know that it takes some time before you can really start to enjoy the story because in the beginning you’re sort of fighting the language before it becomes comfortable to you. It’s the same thing here, only the problem is low quality acting rather than rich prose. But the principle holds, after a while, you stop feeling like you’re watching a skit or a high school play and you can just enjoy it. The only real art complaint is that most of the themes and lessons are so out in the open that there’s not a lot to infer. On the other hand, those themes are so valuable that forcing people to contemplate them is a pretty worthwhile endeavor.

Discussion Questions:
~What reaction will people who are not Christians have to this movie?
~Do you think the low quality of acting and production keeps this from being a more effective piece of ministry?
~When men look at beautiful women on television or the Internet, it makes their own (even attractive) wives seem less satisfying. How is this similar to the effect of watching Hollywood movies and their expensive production value compared to watching homegrown movies like this one?
~Why is respect so important to Caleb? Is he like most men? Why is it so devastating to him to be admired by everyone else but his wife? How might this desire to be admired lead him into temptation?
~Why is being cherished and viewed as sufficient so important to Catherine? Is she like most women? How did her need to be cherished lead her into temptation?
~Which violation do you think is greater: Catherine not respecting and admiring her husband or Caleb not being satisfied with his wife?
~When Caleb first starts doing good things for Catherine, the situation at home and her response actually gets worse. Why is this? Have you ever gotten so accustomed to a bad situation that you got angry at someone for trying to improve it and the discomfort of change that this brought?
~Discuss the comparison between Caleb’s treatment of God and Catherine’s treatment of Caleb.
~Can you think of some times in this movie when Caleb got angry because he probably felt threatened? Is anger generally an indicator of strength or of insecurity?
~What is the point of the salt and pepper demonstration? To what degree is divorce damaging to both people and even to a community?
~Given that the primary audience for this film is people who are already Christian, would it have made more sense to show the characters as Christians already, especially ones who were struggling with their marriages in spite of their religious faith?
~Is it fair to say that this movie (or Facing the Giants for that matter) is offering a message of “Come to Jesus, and you’ll get everything you want?”
~Discuss the progression in Caleb’s motivation to do the love dare. At what stages is he doing it for his dad, to manipulate his wife, to prove himself not a quitter, and for real love? Can real love grow out of doing the right thing for the wrong reasons?
Overall Grade: B+
For a Baptist church to make a movie for $500,000 and earn $33 million, that’s pretty good.

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