• Inflating the least-troubled troubled marriage in cinema history into a Christian-themed Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? that only Ned and Maude Flanders could love
• Failing to block several bad marital metaphors, most of them fire-related, and one that involves gluing a salt shaker to a pepper shaker
• Casting Kirk Cameron as a guy whose idea of spousal tenderness, after 40-plus days of rehabilitating his marriage through Christ, is to bring his sick wife a damp cloth and a bag of Chick-Fil-A
Defenders: Director/co-producer/co-writer Alex Kendrick and his brother Stephen, who also co-produced and co-scripted.
Tone of commentary: Preachy, self-promoting, and chockfull of enervating production details. The Kendricks are associate pastors at Sherwood, a Baptist mega-church in Albany, Georgia that produced Fireproof and their other two features, Facing The Giants and Flywheel, in their backyard, using many members of their congregation. Their films have been enormously successful in terms of returns—Fireproof alone has made $33 million and counting on a $500,000 budget—but they can’t stop selling anyway. They want everyone to know that they’ve adapted The Love Dare (a 40-day faith-driven plan that Cameron’s character uses to save his marriage) into a real book available for purchase on their website, and they point out the numerous times in the film when signs, license plates, and posters call back to Facing The Giants or Flywheel.
And as a preview for what readers might get if they pick up The Love Dare, the Kendricks offer homespun wisdom by the manger-full: “This whole scene is about leading with your heart instead of following your heart. You should only follow your heart if it’s leading toward godliness.” “Jesus says deal with your issues before you try to deal with somebody else’s.” “God is in the business of resurrecting dead marriages.” And God doesn’t just resurrect dead marriages, He also found a little extra time to bless this production: When husband and wife are reunited for a kiss at the end of the film, there just happened to be a #1 fire truck in the background, which underlined the two-become-one theme of marriage. (“We believe that God helped us throw that artistic symbolism in there.”)
What went wrong: When God is watching over a production, things tend to go pretty smoothly. The only thing approaching a complaint from the Kendricks is when they lament that Cameron didn’t work on his accent enough. Even then, they quickly praise him for adding 15 pounds of muscle for the seemingly low-impact firefighting scenes, and they believe “this is Kirk’s best work.” Clearly, the Kendricks haven’t seen his stirring role alongside Jami Gertz in Listen To Me.
Comments on the cast: Given all the congregation members and traveling evangelists who fill out the cast, Fireproof was very much a family affair, so there are lots of high-fives to go around. Many of the performers were like Ken Bevel, “a Marine and godly man who had never acted,” or Stephen Dervan, who counters the heavy melodrama with stationhouse hijinks that could have easily been cut from the film without anyone noticing. According to the Kendricks (who are oh so very wrong), he’s “one of the funniest men alive.”
Inevitable dash of pretension: In Fireproof, the Kendricks constantly traffic in symbols and metaphors, like a scene where Bevel demonstrates the concept of marriage by gluing salt and pepper shakers together. (Apparently a good marriage is never underseasoned.) Another example is an early scene between Cameron and his wife: “She lights scented candles for their house, and he blows them out. He’s a fireman, so he puts out fires. And she’s trying to start romantic fires, and it’s not working. And that’s just further symbolism that their marriage is breaking down.”
Commentary in a nutshell: “When we were praying for God to give us a storyline that would impact the culture…”