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Fireproof Could Have Been Good – Review Part 2

Fireproof... Never leave your partner behind In part one of this review of the movie Fireproof, I gave my overall view that the movie wasn’t as bad as I’d expected, but still squandered the potential it had to be a decent love story. In part two, I’ll focus on some specifics as well as address some of the religious issues of the movie.

Despite the potential for a nice romance movie, there was so much wrong with the entire script (even setting aside the religious aspect) that any chance for a decent level of watchability was destroyed. Irrelevant scenes, undeveloped characters who suddenly seem important, stilted and contrived dialogue, female stereotyping, and a myriad of other problems all effectively screen the underlying story from being the focus.

Much of the acting was bad, but none worse than the young doctor who attempts to woo Catherine, despite her being married. In his case, the bad writing was not the sole cause of his lackluster performance. He came across as decidedly creepy, with pickup lines that deposited a virtual oily slime on the camera. In the end, there’s an implication that he is married as well, so he becomes a double scumbag… but his complete lack of appeal and disturbing stalker-like creepiness were the worst parts.

There were many useless scenes in the movie that added nothing to the story and were simply time-killing distractions. The gag with the hot sauce and the egotistical fireman, Wayne, seemed to have no point. The minor interaction with the one firehouse atheist was pointless. The entire religious “message” seemed secondary. It would have worked if it had been more of a focus (or at least shown to be the reason for the marriage being saved), or had been addressed in a less heavy-handed, clumsy way.

The religious dialogue that was scattered throughout the movie didn’t seem to contribute to the story. The dad, John, made some comments here and there. When Caleb commented on his long drive, he said, “It gave me time to think and pray.” …hopefully not with his eyes closed. Caleb’s “don’t tell me about Jesus” protestations seemed weak. The father’s dialogue was generally badly written and poorly acted, but other than the main conversion scene, didn’t really offer much of a message of Christian goodness.

What about that message? There was really very little, if any, explanation of why Christianity had anything at all to do with the saving of Caleb and Catherine’s marriage. That’s what made the message so weak. All the actions shown from the “love dare” book were secular in nature, except the day where Caleb was supposed to pray for Catherine, which he admitted he didn’t do… which seems to be showing that, even without the religious parts, the marriage was saved. Caleb has his conversion, but it’s ignored for the better part of the second half of the movie, so there was no connection there, either unless the implication is, because he’s accepted Jesus, he’s willing to clean the house, wash the dishes, and buy his wife flowers.

Addressing the religious points from an atheist perspective, I’d have to say there was a lot of silliness.

  • Caleb’s father says, “[Jesus has] become the most significant part of our lives. When I realized who I was and who he was, I realized my need for him. I needed his forgiveness and salvation.” To me, that’s sad. If a dead guy is more significant than your wife and children, not to mention a myriad of other joyous things in life, then your priorities are so far out of whack that a serious reality check is in order. Need his forgiveness? Need his salvation? What?
  • The conversion speech John gives to Caleb is right out of Cameron’s Way of the Master evangelizing program. “God judges by his standards.” … “His standards are so high he considers hatred to be murder and lust to be adultery.” … When Caleb asks about all the good he’s done, his father replies that it doesn’t matter because “You’ve broken his commandments and one day you’ll answer to him for that.” … “Jesus loves you even though you rejected him.” It’s creepy and the message that you can’t know what love is without Jesus is just offensive.
  • When the oncoming train almost hits the lieutenant while he’s helping move a car off the tracks, he sits down and says, “Thank you, God. Thank you, Lord.” I think it would be more appropriate for him to be thanking the other folks who helped get the car off the tracks before the train came by. If God had wanted to help, he could have just stopped the train… or moved the car… or perhaps kept the car accident from happening in the first place. To give thanks to a god who almost kills you is just absurd.
  • When Caleb is rescuing the young girl from the burning house and gets trapped in a room, he says (uncharacteristically, I might add), “God, get us outta here!” He then proceeds to use his axe to hack through the wooden floor and escape safely from under the house. This almost made sense, because, even though he asked God for help, he got out by himself. Quick thinking and taking action saved his life, not a benevolent god. Again, if God had wanted to help, he could have kept the building from catching fire in the first place, or at least gotten the girl to go outside before burning her home to the ground.
  • There was an implication that, unless you give your life to the Lord, it’s all about “my rights and needs.” I don’t think the “Lord” has anything to do with that. Just the opposite, in fact. If someone is “accepting Jesus” because they want eternal salvation or to avoid eternal damnation, that seems pretty self-centered to me.
  • Caleb tells Catherine, “God has given me a love for you that I had never had before.” What he’s telling her is that he can’t possibly love her without divine intervention. That’s insulting on a grand scale.
  • Caleb says, “The love dare changed my life.” and his father responds, “God changed your life. The love dare was just a tool he used.” That’s classic Christian thinking right there. Don’t give credit where the credit is due, but credit God for working in mysterious ways. It’s brilliant because it fits any situation and it’s irrefutable. You can’t prove that God didn’t use the love dare to save your marriage!
  • When Caleb finds out his mother did the love dare on his father (and not the other way around) and now knows that she’s all Jesus’y, he’s sorry for treating her badly and runs to tell her how much he loves her. “Dad, I have treated her so wrong!” Caleb cries. The implication is, of course, that only the godly folks are worthy of good treatment. His mother didn’t change in the past month, but when he suddenly finds out that she’s “all in,” his attitude toward her is completely changed. It’s hypocritical and repugnant.

There are more things like those, of course, but those are some of the highlights. None of those things added anything to the story, but their poor execution just hindered both the Christian message and the quality of the movie. The writer’s attempt to make the connection between Christian beliefs and the success of the marriage failed on a grand scale. However, it did (if you could wade through all the muck) make quite a good connection between kind, secular actions toward your spouse and the success of a marriage. Caleb started doing nice things for Catherine and it made him a better person… and she noticed.

That was the real message.

2 Comments

  1. nikki says:

    yeah u got the name wrong its not erin its kathrine

    1. Dan says:

      Thanks for pointing that out, nikki! I had switched the actress’s name with her character name. My bad.

      I’ve corrected the error.

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