Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fireproof - a review

Fireproof 33/365
Originally uploaded by theboywholaughs
Isaac and I finally watched Fireproof this past weekend, after letting it sit on our TV for literally months.

Part of us didn't want to see it, because cheesiness in Christian media is SOOOO annoying. As Isaac put it, it is was just a cheesy movie it would be a cheesy movie and it would be fine... whatever. But when it is a cheesy movie that is representing and creating an image of what the church, the gospel, and followers of Christ are like - then cheesiness is cringe-inducing and we generally avoid it altogether. I don't want to be too critical of my brothers and sisters in the Christian media world, but I do believe that what we believe is incredibly powerful, meaningful, and intricate. When our presentations of our beliefs come out trite, cheesy, or simplistic, we misrepresent the gospel. That's why I struggle with much of our Christian media world in the US.

However, we did want to see Fireproof because it has deeply affected some of our friends, particularly those that have struggled in their marriages. I know people for whom watching Fireproof has been a real turning point, and I know people who have cried the whole way through the movie.

So on Friday night Isaac and I sat down with our Lou Malnati's pizza (which Josh and Kathryn brought frozen all the way from Chicago!) and prepared ourselves to cringe a little, knowing that this movie HAS done some good. And yeah, we did start out cringing. I decided that it wasn't so much that the acting started out bad but that the production and editing was bad. The first 15-20 minutes had the feeling of a church skit, you know what I mean? It was tough to get INTO the story. I realized that they rarely put music in the background, which is something that we are very used to having in our movies and it made it feel awkward. It also started off very dramatic, trying to show the anger and conflict between this young married couple. While it was realistic conflict it just felt like a drama, and I decided they needed to bring in some humor to balance the drama and make it feel true-to-life.

And after about 20 minutes, they did. Suddenly the production got better, some humor lightened the mood without taking away from the gravity of the situation, and Isaac and I finally got into the story. In my opinion, the power of the movie is when it is targetted to the church and our marriages. The divorce rate in the US is just as high within the church, and Fireproof does an excellent job at showing realistic marital conflict and loss of hope, but then also teaching how to love, how to be tender, and how to turn a marriage around. There is hope and beauty in it. It is really challenging in its presentation of the "Love Dare" and watching Kirk Cameron try to woo his wife day by day, even when she is not responding. That was cool.

This is going to sound awful, but I wish they had kept the "conversion moments" out of the movie. Those moments are obviously in there to show that true hope and healing is found only in knowing Christ, and I agree with that. However, I also think that there is great power in STORY to teach, and I think the story of the healed marriage would be a clear testimony in and of itself to those who are watching. It felt to me like those "salvation" moments sort of rubbed it in the face of the watchers rather then letting the beauty speak for itself. Then there's the fact that I think the "moment of salvation" and the "pray the prayer" mentality can sometimes be harmful when THAT becomes the focus, rather then calling people to a lifetime of discipleship, of following Christ and growing to know Him.

I think Fireproof is most powerful in its message about love and marriage, but it is not an easy watching experience. It's sort of like watching The Breakup - it's too serious and too realistic to be enjoyable watching, but Fireproof ends with hope. It is in-your-face enough that most non-Christians will probably not enjoy it, and I know several that would be very angered by it. It reaches its audience, though, and it does portray a message effectively, though perhaps not in the best way... or at least not in my preferred way. :)


  1. This is a really insightful review... thanks! I don't know if I'll be able to make myself see it, but if I do I'll be watching it for the redemptive qualities you mentioned. I know *exactly* what you mean about cringe-moments in Christian media, and how conversion scenes can almost work against the purpose they're going for... Sometimes I think that Christians don't give people credit for being able to pick up on subtlety and nuances, and end up almost defeating their purpose with heavy-handedness...

  2. KC,

    I'm not sure I agree with you about "simplistic" presentations of the gospel, for a couple of reasons:
    1. The gospel IS simple, as evidenced by its accessibility to the child-like mind.
    2. You are a critical/cynical person by your nature, so you think that people must have a "full presentation" in order to come to saving faith, but I don't think that's necessarily true.
    3. The gospel is not "calling people to a lifetime of discipleship, of following Christ, and growing to know Him," as you say; otherwise, there would be no hope for those who are on their deathbed (at death's door) and are offered the same salvation as everyone else (cross-reference Matthew 20).
    4. The gospel is as simple as "believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).


  3. You know, I think the gospel is simultaneously simple and infinitely complex. Like you said, the gospel is understood by children - God has shamed the wise, in some ways. You're right, I am cynical... but I don't think a full presentation of the gospel is necessary for salvation, after all, it is the Holy Spirit that brings faith, not the understanding work on our part.

    What I object to in fireproof and in our evangelical culture is that salvation is defined in a moment rather than left open. We have to "pray the prayer" ... rather than know and believe God - you know what I mean? I react against the idea of the "moment of salvation" and the cheesiness of the gospel that is presented... not against the simplicity of the gospel.