Alex and Stephen Kendrick’s latest film–Fireproof–will make a lot of money. It will promote some very important realities dear to Christians and vital to the Christian message: the persevering work of Jesus Christ, demonstrated on the cross; the sanctity of the marriage covenant; that tough marriages are–more often than not–salvageable. For those reasons alone, it is worth the viewing. For the Christian considering marriage, it is recommended for reasons on which I will elaborate.
Fireproof is about a couple–Caleb and Catherine Holt–whose marriage, in spite of a well-to-do economic situation, is self-destructing rapidly.
Caleb, a firefighter, is a stereotypical materialistic, narcissist, porn-addicted male who pays no attention–other than economic and sexual–to his wife. He packs away money for an expensive boat while his mother-in-law wallows in paralysis from a stroke, in need of a hospital bed and wheelchair that his boat savings would cost. He wonders why his wife doesn’t respect him.
Catherine, who works at the local hospital, uses her income to take care of her and Caleb’s monthly expenses, struggles to cope with her mother’s health, and has fallen out of love with her husband, who humiliates her with his porn addiction and fails to help her emotionally and shows little regard for her. She is further discouraged by the busybodies with whom she works–as she shares her dirty laundry with them–and is finding herself charmed by an opportunistic physician–Gavin–who has romantic designs on her.
After a monumental blowup, Catherine decides she wants out of the marriage.
Caleb’s father, a Christian whose marriage was saved in no small part by his conversion to the faith–challenges his son to do the 40-day “Love Dare”, a product of the Kendricks that will also be published commercially as a book for marriage restoration. The heart of the movie focuses on Caleb’s going on the “love dare” in a last-ditch effort to save his marriage.
Does it get a little cheesy? At times. It is difficult to work Christian pilgrimmage events–such as receiving Jesus Christ–into a movie without having that effect.
Even then, Fireproof does get a very important point home on that front: receiving Jesus Christ does not necessarily guarantee that everything will be peaches and cream and then suddenly everyone starts getting kissy-kissy/huggy-huggy. A broken marriage may become less broken when one–or both–partners get saved, but there are no guarantees of immediate turnaround. It is possible, but there are no guarantees. When Caleb receives Christ, his problems do not end, and in fact get even more excruciating.
Do I have gripes with the movie? You bet:
(1) While Fireproof does not dismiss the faults of the wife, one can get the faulty impression from this movie that her depravity would not exist but for his. That is pure headship theology, which is best-described by an 8-letter word rooted deep in our agricultural heritage. Caleb is portrayed in far less favorable terms than his wife.
He is the one with 95% of the problems. He is the one who is porn-addicted and materialistic, caring not that his mother-in-law rots in paralysis while he saves for a boat. He is the one who is insensitive to her needs. Even her faults are construed against the backdrop of his, which minimizes hers. Anakin and Triton would [rightfully] blast this movie to kingdom come.
On these pages, equality in depravity is very important. Our regular contributors include a gal whose husband of 20 years cavorted with prostitutes, and a guy whose wife of nearly 20 years left him for another man.
The Kendricks, sadly, seem to have fallen for the mistaken notion that it’s the men with all the problems and that if the men were lighting up the world for Jesus, then the women would all be these wonderful, angelic near-sinless beings.
It doesn’t work that way: total depravity is no respecter of sexes.
(2) I know some firefighters. They are fitness nuts–probably my biggest fitness competitors in the gym–and, as far as lifestyles go, they are not dirt-poor. But still, they do not have the high lifestyle that the Holts enjoy in Fireproof. This detail may sound petty, but it detracts from the reality faced by most Christians I know.
(3) While it would be difficult to address all the complexities of marital situations, the couple in Fireproof were both non-believers. What about the case of both husband and wife as believers? How do those play out? What about the case of a believing wife (husband) and a nonbelieving husband (wife)? In the Church, you are more likely to address the latter two scenarios, and not the first.
Still, there are themes that make the movie worth watching: (a) the Gospel is well-represented, especially against the backdrop of a husband’s heartfelt attempt to woo his wife, and her rejection of him; and (b) the sanctity and permanence of the marriage covenant. Those items alone make the movie a good one to see before you get married.
My score: 6 out of 10.