Emagine Canton
Samuel Goldwyn


.5 out of 5 stars

For all its talk about God and “soul saving,” “Fireproof” should actually be damned to the innermost circle of movie hell. The film stars Kirk Cameron, and after his interviews on “Nightline” and “The O’Reilly Factor,” it’s evident he has an agenda as subtle as a blunt cross.

Cameron (“Growing Pains”) plays firefighter Captain Caleb Holt, whose marriage to his wife Catherine, played by Erin Bethea (“Facing the Giants”), has fallen apart. In hopes of saving his son’s marriage, Caleb’s father, John Holt (played by newcomer Harris Malcolm), decides to intervene with a challenge he calls the “Love Dare” — something that not only miraculously saves failed marriages, but also helps couples find God through a series of little activities performed within a 40-day period.

The “Love Dare” used to save the marriage is not a work of God so much as it is common sense. It advises that a good husband listens to his wife, gives her compliments and does something nice for her every once in a while. If Holt hadn’t been treating his wife this way before, she probably should have left him long ago.

But the film takes Captain Holt’s spiritual journey painfully seriously. The film is littered with lines full of phony emotion, such as “Marriage isn’t fireproof” and “Never… leave… your partner… behind.” The audience also gets to see Cameron cry a grand total of five times. It’s almost as if he’s channeling the pain of an audience member who is stuck watching this film. Bethea’s performance is also a drawback — she doesn’t seem to be coping with a difficult divorce at all. She cries, and then is incredibly happy — it appears as if she’s just having PMS.

What makes the movie so annoying is that its activism does not inspire. This is not to say that a movie with a religious theme can’t be inspiring. But when shot after shot of a wooden cross bathed in golden light is forced upon audiences, it inspires more groans than hallelujahs.

The film tries to make heroes out of the God-fearing characters but falls short of its goal. Captain Holt is no Batman. He has no obstacles to overcome other than his failure to love God and a brief allusion to a fondness for internet pornography (which goes away as soon as he smashes his computer). Once he overcomes these things, life is great. We never really see him battle against a great force of evil.

Films are mediums of expression, but “Fireproof” is flat-out exploitative and manipulative. Cameron makes no secret of his mission in life, and neither does this movie.

In the middle of the film there’s a scene in which Holt, his firemen and some policemen try to move a car away from the tracks of an oncoming train. While they are working, they’re suddenly joined by a marine in full uniform who just happened to be walking by. The scene gives cause to wonder: Do men as glorious as these deserve to return to a home and a country riddled with the evils of divorce? Maybe not, but if traditional red-brick homes and white picket fences need saving, it will take a lot more than the “Love Dare” to accomplish it.

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