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Fireproof

By Harry Forbes
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- You fireproof your home; why not your marriage?

Such is the obvious but unobjectionable theme of "Fireproof" (Goldwyn), a modest but heartwarming drama from Sherwood Pictures, the Albany, Ga., church-based studio that made "Flywheel" and "Facing the Giants," all on remarkably small budgets with a largely volunteer cast and crew.

Their latest concerns a small-town fire captain, Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron, the film's only name performer), whose marriage to Catherine (Erin Bethea), the PR director at the local hospital, is on the rocks. They've lost patience with one another. Catherine accuses him of spending all his time looking at "trash" (i.e., pornography) on the Internet. He, in turn, complains she no longer shops or cooks for him.

He's saving up for a boat; she'd like to use that money to make improvements on the house. Each feels disrespected.

Under the guidance of his born-again father, John (Harris Malcom), whose own marriage to Caleb's mother, Cheryl (Phyllis Malcom), had once been in trouble, Caleb reluctantly promises his father he'll follow the instructions in a journal called "The Love Dare," which saved the older couple's marriage, in order to rescue his own seven-year union.

Catherine remains obstinately unyielding, and disparages Caleb's sincere proffering of morning coffee, flowers, a candlelight dinner and sickbed duty, thinking he's merely buttering her up for better divorce terms. She's further reluctant to reconcile, as she's in thrall to the smarmy attentions of Dr. Gavin Keller (Perry Revell) at work.

The film is nicely if simply shot by directors Alex and Stephen Kendrick, though their script is not unlike a TV soap opera. The message that marriage is grounded in the knowledge that God loves us with all our faults -- and so should we love our spouse -- is incontrovertible, but it's clear the story is merely a vehicle for conveying that message.

The script would also seem to imply that only committed Christians can have successful marriages, whereas from a Catholic perspective, marriage is a natural union as well as a sacramental one among the baptized.

Occasionally, the didactic tone goes over the top, as when Caleb takes to his computer and monitor -- source of those alluring porno sites -- with a baseball bat, rather than, say, exercising a little self-restraint. This comes on the heels of his father warning him about dangerous "parasites" -- gambling and drugs included -- to which one's heart can become addicted.

Caleb gets more reinforcement from Michael (Ken Bevel), his best friend at the firehouse, who stands in contrast to the others there: the unenlightened doubter Terrell (Eric Young), who believes we're all "going into the ground," and braggart engine driver Wayne (Stephen Dervan).

Former "Growing Pains" star Cameron is fine, while the mostly nonprofessional supporting cast and production values are surprisingly capable. There are even a couple of fairly ambitious action sequences -- a car stuck on the train tracks with an oncoming train, and of course a climactic fire -- both competently executed.

Though strongly evangelical, rather than Catholic, in tone -- there are no references to the sacramental nature of marriage, and the approach to conversion is shown to be typically instantaneous -- the stress on permanence, fidelity, forgiveness and reconciliation (as well as faith in a loving God) resonates well not only with Catholic belief and teaching but also with the pro-marriage campaign of the U.S. bishops. Details of the campaign can be found online at www.foryourmarriage.org.

Predictable though the film's outcome is, you'll be forgiven for a lump in the throat by the time of the sentimental fade-out.

The film contains domestic discord, extramarital flirtation and pornography references. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

- - -

Forbes is director of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.

END


Copyright (c) 2008 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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