"Never Leave Your Partner Behind" - A Review of Fireproof (2008)

By Glenn

I was listening to NPR's Story of the Day podcast a few weeks back when they started discussing the highest grossing independent movie of 2008. At first I thought it might be Baz Luhrmann's film Australia but quickly cast that thought out of my head. The best independent movie of 2008 had much less singing and slightly less Nicole Kidman, but an equal level of detachment from reality. For, you see my religious and non-religious friends, that film is Fireproof.




Fireproof is a movie that doesn't try to be anything other than what it is: a religious movie masquerading as a movie about relationships. In this review, I will try to be as honest as I can about the qualities and defects of this film. I know my personal biases make this difficult, but I also know I have to come to terms with the fact that Kirk Cameron is not going to respond to the letter I sent him in 1990.

First, as a warning, the movie is rated PG, but not because of any especially harsh language (unless you count taking the lord's name in vain), violence or sexual situations (unless you count subtly referring to internet pornography as a sexual "situation"). Rather, this is a movie for adults because it deals with adult problems - like marriage. No child would feel comfortable watching such overt religious imagery disguised as relationship guidance. There's also next to zero humor in the film, which means most kids will be quickly bored. This is a movie for mom and dad, to help them decide if they want to remain as husband and wife.

Caleb (Kirk Cameron) and Catherine (Erin Bethea) Holt are the married couple in peril, already into the pre-separation stages of a marriage when the movie begins. This makes sense given the movie's focus on reconciliation, but makes the viewer imagine on their own terms how they've gotten to this point - at least until Caleb's father basically says that it's because Caleb isn't a Christian. The silence between them at home echoes louder than the thunderous yells Caleb later unleashes on Catherine for "not respecting him." They don't eat meals together. They don't visit Catherine's sick mother together. They definitely don't go to church together, because Caleb isn't into Christianity, at least compared to "that stuff on the internet."

The movie is about and therefore hinges on the relationship and interactions between Caleb and Catherine. Kirk Cameron - vile and obnoxious Christian that he is - does a fine job. He is a professional actor, after all. Erin Bethea, on the other hand, couldn't act her way out of a paper bag, which she actually attempts in a DVD extra. Erin currently works as a contracted actress at Disney's Magical Kingdom, which I point out not only to insult her talent as an actress but also to mention that OYIT is going to start having advertising from Disney on our website in the future. The poor performance of the female lead is one thing that dooms this movie.

The other is the "transformation" of Kirk Cameron's character Caleb from rude, not-getting-enough-respect, internet porn-loving firefighter to calm, accepting, internet porn-hating Christian husband. After Caleb and Catherine mutually decide they're no longer happy together they decide to get a divorce. This is a simple concept and how many unhappy couples escape relationship prison every day. In Fireproof Caleb's dad tells him to hold off on the divorce and try to follow forty lessons from the same book that saved his marriage.

Most of the lessons are common sense and would apply to anyone trying to save a faltering relationship, such as "call your partner during the day just to see how he/she is." I've never been able to make a marriage work, but everyone knows how easy it is for couples to drift apart even as they should be growing together. The Love Dare does try to serve as a blueprint for couples, even though its background is anything but well-meaning:

The Love Dare is a non-fiction marriage-related book written by Alex and Stephen Kendrick. It is a 40-day Christian devotional designed to strengthen marriages. Each daily devotion includes scripture, a statement of principle, the day’s "dare," and a journaling area and check box to chart progress.

For all of those millions of copies sold to unsuspecting Christians, I'm going to reveal a major spoiler: the book doesn't work. Caleb tries basically all of the things the book says to do, but it simply doesn't work. Then his father, in one of the most ham handed film scenes since Jesus's actual crucifixion, leans against a wooden cross and tells him his wife is treating him no worse than he's treating Jesus. You know, he says he loves her, does something nice to her etc. but she rejects him. This should sound VERY familiar to all you former atheists turned Christians. He converts, accepts God/Christ and then she accepts him. Marriage saved, they kiss, movie over.

Or is it? That closing kiss at the end of the movie isn't even as it appears:
...When Cameron's character kisses his wife, the scene was shot in shadows, and [Erin] Bethea was replaced by Cameron's wife, Chelsea Noble, disguised to look as Bethea. This was done because Cameron does not believe that a man should kiss any woman other than his wife.

And that alone should give you an idea of how insane Kirk Cameron is, why I didn't like this movie and why you can't just use the Bible to save a marriage. Relationships are hard. They only come easy to people who are mentally incapacitated or Muslim men who can dominate their wives. The movie doesn't really tell us any concrete reasons why he'll be a better husband after converting to Christianity other than he'll be nicer to her. You don't need religion to be nice to your partner. Additionally, why is it that it was the man's fault the relationship was going so badly and only after converting did he fix himself and thus the marriage? Most relationships take two people to work and two people to break. Maybe if Erin Bethea had some more dramatic range her character would have been fleshed out instead of just cut out of the kissing scenes.

My final recommendation is to stay away from this movie if you're looking to truly save your marriage but embrace it if you're the kind of Christian so fused with religious fervor that you wouldn't agree, as an actor, to kiss a woman other than your wife because God would get mad. The only redeeming feature (besides the trailer, included below) about the movie is the DVD that includes an alternate ending and bloopers/practical jokes. The bloopers extra attempts to be funny, fails and in this failure true love is found - which sounds like the plot for Fireproof 2. The alternate ending, on the other hand, actually converted me back to Christianity. I don't want to give it away, but let's just say it has something to do with the Crocoduck.

24 comments:

  1. Good movie review. It makes me want to set all of the copies on fire and when Kirk Cameron comes to put the fire out I'd slit his throat.

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  2. i tried to convince my sister to watch this with me over spring break on pay-per-view. she wouldn't, and i was too ashamed to watch it alone.

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  3. BUT I THINK I WOULD LAUGH SO HARD IN THIS MOVIE SO I'M GONNA NETFLIX IT!

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  4. or maybe you'll be the one slitting your throat, Maddie!

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  5. why would one slit their own throat when they could just laugh their ass off instead? i know that's why I want to see this movie - it could only add to the greatness of cameron's previous work 'left behind'. which is before he became a REAL christian so he kissed another woman and his wife almost left him - leading to the plot of 'fireproof'.

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  6. thanks for another suggestion kaleena!

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  7. this is all very interesting in light of the torrid affair kirk cameron and i are having.

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  8. I don't really think he decided not to kiss another woman just for God, I think he did it out of respect for his wife as well as his relationship with God. I would not like my husband kissing another woman even if it is for a movie. Obviously he is doing something right by incorporating God in his marriage (which is the message the movie sends if you pay attention to the moral of it) for it (Kirk's marriage) to have lasted this long, compared to most of Hollywood's marriages.

    Actually, my husband and I tried parts of the love dare and with God's help, guess what... it worked.

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  9. I do agree with the woman's poor acting skills though.

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  10. that was really brave of you to try the love dare

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  11. I enjoyed the movie tremendously! It's nice to see a movie with a decent plot, without having to see some alien coming out of a stomach, tons of people getting their heads and arms shot off, sex scenes, and language that who knows really says. I guess you would feel better if they would of just had an affair, got divorced and destroyed each other in the process. Oh and let's not forget suing each other for everything they can. Sad world we live in.

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  12. Glenn You think it over what you wrote. it make you look.___?

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  13. Your review is RIDICULOUS!!!!!!! I am 18 years old and I love the movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It relates to everyday life not just couples! You need to get a big reality check Sir!!!!!! It is not right to kiss someone that is not your spouse if you are not married! That is CHEATING!!!!!! WOW!!!!!! You deffinately need to get out of the box you are in and get a reality check!!!!

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  14. I am an important businessman on a conference call at 8:30 am PGST (Pacific Gold Standard Time). I don't have time for this foolishness.

    I also wish I could post this comment using my LiveJournal account. I am not familiar with TypePad.

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  15. i want to kiss kirk. but not in a gay way, in a im gonna make the perfect doll out of you once jake cuts you type way...maybe that is in a gay way. either way great review. once me and my kirk doll are together we will try the relationship book. it sounds better than the love waits series at least. which is literally responsible for the death of many of r. kellys dates including the pop singer from romeo must die.

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  16. Actually, the movie was outstanding, and one can tell right off the bat that it's not of Hollywood, as Hollywood is satanic and as this movie is edifying.

    Indeed, this bitter, venomous critic has an overt prejudice against Christianity and clearly promotes the postmodern nonsense that Hollywood and our culture share, combined with the false definition of "Separation of Church and State" that the critic and our culture promote. (It doesn't mean our Constitution wasn't based upon God's Word, contrary to however many "educators" tell you it does---- and notice how these same prejudiced-against-Christianity/preaching folks overlook the fact that everyone is religious and that Hollywood preaches continually. Of course, the animosity stems from the fact that followers of Satan hate the things of God.)

    The premise that a movie has to be entertaining/humorous is false, and folks, a dramatic, edifying, powerful movie is indeed entertaining, by the way, thankfully in a different way than the critic in question has in mind.

    RonaldMillsaps@yahoo.com

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  17. Hahahaha, you're an idiot. Movies are supposed to be entertaining because they are a form of entertainment! If a person doesn't worship God it does not inherently mean they worship Satan. The author of this article does, but many others who don't worship your lord are atheists and don't believe in Satan, either. I'm glad you posted your comment on this website, but this website is a comedy website that is supposed to be entertaining/funny, which you, admittedly, do not like. Much like Christian movies are not Glenn's preference, this website is not yours and you both are allowed to express your opinion on the internet, along with every other idiot.

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  18. I left my partner behind when I traveled to this dimension. There is not a day that goes past that I do not think of her.

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  19. I'm sorry you had to watch this movie, but glad you did, because I just laughed so hard reading your review of it.

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  20. For the record, I began an email dialog with Ronald Millsaps after his comment and we are happily married in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. We're both practicing Satanists but we love this movie Fireproof and watch it every Saturday night when we get home from the grocery store.

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  21. This movie may not have the best acting abilities but how well their acting was was not what it was about. Believe it or not some-very few-movies have messages behind it and THATS what matters in this movie, not their acting skills. No marriage should be without God. Period. God shoukd be at the center of all marriages and if He isn't then that is the main reason marriages fail; the lack of God.

    The inly thing bad about this movie was your review.

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    1. Kaitlyn:

      While I believe that you believe your basic premise (no marriage should be without god), I think we need to get back to first principles here if we are to have a truly honest debate. Namely, god does not exist, and marriage based on any sort of religious principle is essentially a form of patriarchal control and dominance of one party, normally women, or in the cae of Fireproof or Backdraft or whatever, fire.

      The only thing bad about your comment is your complete worldview and all the assumptions you make about how correct it is. God isn't real. Marriage is a construct. Everything you think you know is probably fake. Namaste.

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  22. LOL! That is the premise of this website!! And of your life in case you haven't realized!!!

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