Love is like a pair of salt and pepper shakers. Love is like everyone and their mother not wearing their wedding bands. Love is a force that drives a man to smash his own computer. Love is a feeling only attainable through God.
After watching 'Fireproof,' I'm not even sure if I'm being sarcastic anymore.
From the same church and writing/directing brotherly duo that brought us 'Facing the Giants' comes another far fetched tale of everything failing, until belief and trust in the Lord changes everything in wonderful ways.
Caleb (Kirk Cameron) and Catherine (Erin Bethea) Holt's marriage is nearing its end, with neither feeling appreciated or respected by their spouse. Caleb's job as a firefighter brings him daily stress, as failing his job may cost lives, and his patience for not being appreciated at home has caused a rift that seems impossible to repair. Impossible, that is, until Caleb's father John (Harris Malcom) challenges him to fight for his marriage using a booklet containing a guide on how to treat his wife for the next forty days. The "Love Dare" also happens to be based in faith and scripture. Failure seems inevitable as Caleb doesn't put his all into the program, but with the death of his marriage becoming more evident with every passing day, his commitments and beliefs will be tested.
I can't help but feel a bit of deja vu here, and not just because of the striking similarities between 'Fireproof' and 'Giants.' In recent years, tales of pastors preaching for their congregation to procreate daily for a month have been met with great success, with couples getting reconnected, strengthening the bond, and possibly leading to new elements in a relationship if conception occurs (which also helps the church grow). It seems 'Fireproof' is the polar opposite of this experiment, with a trial of random tasks aiming to make one feel more connected to their spouse by all means non-physical, with bible verses attached for good measure.
'Fireproof' fails for all the same reasons as 'Facing the Giants.' There was no obvious growth between films for the Sherwood Baptist Church and the writer/director duo of Alex and Stephen Kendrick, no learning from past mistakes. It's almost as if the men behind this film felt that no improvement would be necessary, no effort need be made, that a minimal amount of money, and a strong, possibly overbearing Christian message would lead to great box office success and DVD sales.
I can't help but again be deeply put off by the film, as it uses heavy handed tactics to force a message rather than inspire, despite what the cover states ("The #1 inspirational movie in America!"). There is no moment in this film that doesn't lead towards an obvious resolution, from the tagline that is muttered numerous times ("You never leave your partner behind!") that will obviously have an impression on the final act of the film, to the fact that countless random and normal conversations all transition to deep discussions of faith. I nearly cringed when Caleb's father stated he'd send him the help he needs in the mail, as I whole-heartedly expected a minute long zoom in shot on an envelope with an address to send off to, like it were a commercial. In a way, that's all the film is.
As for another story element. I never knew that pornography was so, so evil, such a drain on a relationship, to the point that even having a computer will lead one to visit smut sites, so the only solution to the situation is to smash the computer with a baseball bat, not install child filters or learn self control. It's almost as if the film wants to preach that the entire internet is evil, as even mundane sites showing pictures of boats Caleb wants to buy prompt sexual popups. Ironically, the end of the film contains a link to a website for the film. I can't help but feel that I'm being preached a mixed message here...
It doesn't matter, really, as that's just one of a thousand flaws in the film. From the cheesy back and forth cuts of two conversations merging as one that go on for about ten cuts too long, to an abandoned cross setting that looks like a sacrifice would be a more likely occurrence than a prayer circle, to the fact that a firefighter would be unlikely to have an average of twenty candles per room (I did the math, it's closer to twenty three), or the manner in which Catherine is portrayed, how she easily shuns any outreach to her, how she has thoughts and actions of infidelity, and how she repeatedly walks away from people who are in the middle of talking to her and trying to help her, I just couldn't find reason to like this film, or see it as anything more than a piece of religious propaganda that only aims for satisfaction inside the church walls. Marriages can be saved without religion. Marriages can be based on love without religion. Divorces happen, even to Christians. People change, and sometimes things honestly aren't worth fighting for. This film and its plot points just seem all too contrived and convenient to appeal to anyone not already singing in the choir.
'Fireproof' arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p transfer in the AVC MPEG-4 encode that is more than sufficient, and even sparkles occasionally, but it has a few serious flaws.
Kirk Cameron is one dedicated actor. To headline a film while suffering from a bad case of jaundice takes real devotion to the work. Ah, wait, I was wrong. Kirk Cameron didn't have any jaundice during the filming of 'Fireproof'...but he sure looks that way, thanks to a an ugly yellow smear inhabiting his skin in nearly every scene he's in.
Colors are vibrant and powerful, perhaps to the point of overkill. Edges are clean, and detail shines through in every sequence, with no signs of DNR or other manipulation. I found numerous sequences that were very strong in portraying minute details, even at a distance. Sadly, there were also numerous scenes that were very two dimensional and flat, a few softer shots, and poor delineation.
While 'Fireproof' was solid, though flawed, in the video department, the audio end of the disc is a bit more problematic. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix afforded this release is acceptable, at best. A lazy effort trying to float by on the bare minimum.
Spoken word has a a pretty good percentage when it comes to comprehendible words versus those that were a real pain to make out...but really, there were far too many words that were mumbly or just lost in the shuffle. There are a few occasions of localized sounds coming from rear speakers, like radio noise, an incoming train, or the movement of fire trucks, and a few bits of movement (also from the fire trucks), but for the most part, surround speakers are not engaged all too thoroughly here. In fact, they're somewhat ignored, with countless scenes that should have a crowded audio aesthetic being barren and devoid of odd noises. Bass levels are also near dead, with the only true activity coming in the rumble of the fire engines, or in a flaming house.
Bottom line, this is a talker, with a few dramatic sequences thrown in to show Caleb doing his job (otherwise portraying him as a fireman would have been just too silly). Still, I expect talkers to have at least clear dialogue, and on more than a few occasions, that isn't the case here.
While 'Facing the Giants' had an average sized supplement package, 'Fireproof' is loaded with extras. Many are a bit repetitive, but that's another story.
A note to Christian movie makers... after a pornographic pop up on a computer, don't have someone fighting their urges grunting "why is it so hard?!?!" It just does not sound right. Also, one can have a computer and not view porn. One doesn't need to smash it. They're pretty good for this thing called email, or reading reviews at HighDefDigest. Anyways, 'Fireproof' is anything but fireproof, sporting middling audio and video for a bad, bad film. I'd prefer to take my religious advertisements in twenty two second doses by means of commercials, not by two hour long sermons. That, and I'd prefer a film with a plausible story line.