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Fireproof DVD Review

Fireproof movie poster Fireproof

Theatrical Release: September 26, 2008 / Running Time: 118 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Alex Kendrick / Writers: Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendrick

Cast: Kirk Cameron (Caleb Holt), Erin Bethea (Catherine Holt), Ken Bevel (Michael Simmons), Stephen Dervan (Wayne Floyd), Eric Young (Terrell Sanders), Jason McLeod (Eric Harmon), Harris Malcom (John Holt), Phyllis Malcom (Cheryl Holt), Perry Revell (Dr. Gavin Keller), Stephanie Makulinski (Robin Cates), Renata Williams (Latasha Brown), Dwan Williams (Deidra Harris), Amberly Marquard (Ashley Phillips)

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Since "Growing Pains" signed off the airwaves in 1992, eldest Seaver son Kirk Cameron has largely kept off Hollywood's radar. The 1980s teen heartthrob hasn't joined the ranks of former child star wrecks; there have been no reality TV gigs, drug addictions, or scandals of any kind. At the same time, Cameron hasn't enjoyed major stardom the way his seventh season protιgι Leonardo DiCaprio has. Cameron's post-"Pains" work includes a 1½-season sitcom vehicle, a couple of Disney Channel movies, the infrequent TV guest slot, and a pair of "Growing Pains" reunions.
None of that pointed to a newsmaking big screen return, but that's exactly what Cameron received in last fall's Fireproof.

Made for just $500,000 and released in under 1,000 theaters, this PG-rated drama opened in fourth place at the box office. It would go on to earn back its budget over 65 times. To date, Cameron's little film has grossed over $33 million domestically. That may not scream blockbuster, but it's more than what was garnered by widely-released 2008 films starring George Clooney (Leatherheads), Mike Myers (The Love Guru), and Owen Wilson (Drillbit Taylor).

Of course, it's a little bit of a stretch to call Fireproof a "Kirk Cameron movie" (a phrase that hasn't much been invoked since 1989's Listen to Me). Though Cameron is top-billed, the clear lead, and undoubtedly the most famous name onboard, Fireproof is first and foremost a "Christian movie." That domain was not new for the actor; he became a devout Christian at the height of his popularity and earlier this decade starred in the Left Behind trilogy of post-Rapture films. Nor was it unfamiliar to Alex and Stephen Kendrick, the brothers and pastors who founded a film company out of their well-attended Sherwood Baptist Church. Fireproof is the megachurch group's third film.

Kirk Cameron's neck vein flares as Caleb Holt forcefully chews out his wife Catherine (Erin Bethea) in "Fireproof." Caleb takes a chance on The Love Dare, reading and acting in the hopes of saving his marriage.

Set in Sherwood's hometown of Albany, Georgia, Fireproof tells the story of a married couple in conflict. Fire chief Caleb Holt (Cameron) and his wife of seven years, hospital PR administrator Catherine (Erin Bethea), are not getting along. In fact, they can hardly stand each other's company. Both are seriously considering a divorce. Caleb's father (Harris Malcom) discourages such an action, instead pleading with his son to spend the next forty days on something called "The Love Dare." A handwritten book provides daily instructions and Bible passages for salvaging the marriage.

Taking Dad up on his offer, Caleb quietly follows the rescue plan and starts making one gesture each day to show his appreciation for his wife. You might anticipate Caleb's efforts being a painless cure-all in the world of homegrown films, but in fact a number of obstacles still stand in the way of the Holts' union being healthily restored. Suspicious of her husband's carefully-metered thoughtfulness, Catherine grows increasingly close to a suave colleague doctor (Perry Revell). Meanwhile, Caleb has his own demons to conquer, the most pressing of which seem to be his lack of faith and his appreciation for the Internet.

Nothing else needs to be said about the plot of Fireproof, which the DVD cover dubs "The #1 Inspirational Movie in America!" in an unattributed quote.

At the hospital where she works, Catherine (Erin Bethea) is surprised to learn of a major charitable donation for her grandmother. Caleb's father (pastor Harris Malcom) is there to listen, preach, and prescribe The Love Dare to his maritally-challenged son.

That you can guess where things are going is of little detriment. You don't watch a movie like this for the twists and turns. You do watch a movie like this expecting to get something worthwhile out of the time devoted. This is where Fireproof fails. It certainly means well, providing a how-to for saving marriages with Christ's help. But that makes it more of a motivational workshop than a dramatic motion picture. Judging it as the latter finds it lacking in many ways.

The acting is unpolished, which perhaps is to be expected of a cast short on experience and largely unpaid. Even the best work, coming from the reasonably accomplished Cameron, is subpar and synthetic, handicapping characterization and draining whatever realism might have survived the mawkish script.
The widespread incompetence gives the proceedings a basic cable TV movie feel, which the rambling focus, untidy pace, and unspectacular technique all seem to actually fall short of.

In the filmmakers' defense, the movie does seem to be earnest. These aren't folks churning out slush for a paycheck. Everyone involved seems to believe in the message and the means. (38-year-old Cameron will celebrate his 18th wedding anniversary in July.) That doesn't make it any better than it is, but it does mean that artistic dismissals should come with an extra touch of consideration and, for me at least, guilt.

Nevertheless, I can't just buy into the film's rhetoric. It presents no reason for Caleb to fight at length for his now-loveless marriage, so why are we supposed to be moved or receptive? Betterment and forgiveness are notions I can get behind, but these are essentially ignored in favor of persistent divorce-is-not-an-option self-discipline. Judging from the unexpected theatrical attendance and unbelievable Amazon.com sales rank (presently at #10), plenty of other Americans must have found the couple worth rooting for and telling others about.

Buy Fireproof on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese
Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: January 27, 2009
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $28.96
Black Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc
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Fireproof appears in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and though blandly shot on a shoestring budget, it looks rather terrific on DVD. The element is immaculate and the picture bright and vibrant. The mild softness won't offend many. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is quite limited, with score selections scattered and Christian pop tunes serving as infrequent montage fodder.


Bonus features begin with a feature audio commentary by director Alex Kendrick and producer Stephen Kendrick, who wrote the film together.
These two are about as distant from the "industry" as any major filmmakers you'll find in America; as such, it's easy to notice the pair's excitement in making movies and talking about it. Their track is proud, informative, pragmatic, and very screen-specific. That makes it stand out from other commentaries in its accessibility.

The brothers discuss facts pertaining to the movie's creation and production as well as the story and characters. They remark upon edits, tricks, reshoots, and effects. They point out homages and links to Sherwood's two previous films (Facing the Giants and Flywheel). Actors, props, and symbolism are all noticed. They speak of realism and defend every perceivable folly (like Cameron's lack of a southern accent). Demonstrating the belief their creation is more than just a movie, they also share their opinions about men and women and cite influential Bible chapters.

Third-billed Ken Bevel plays Michael Simmons, a model husband, black friend, and source of wisdom in this chicken wing-eating deleted scene. This clapboard holder seems pretty pleased with the wacky face he shares in "Firegoofs/Jokes and Pranks." Alex Kendrick directs Kirk Cameron in "Fireproof: Behind the Scenes."

We then get ten Deleted Scenes. There's nothing groundbreaking here. A few mild extensions for the film's two action scenes are provided. We also get to see more of the firehouse staff, Caleb praying, and a few additional moments at Catherine's hospital. The lot runs 15 minutes altogether, including the director's collective introduction.

"Firegoofs/Jokes and Pranks" (7:30) is an amusing outtakes reel. The first half shows us forgotten lines and missed marks, while the second provides more varied cast and crew hijinks. Normally found on comedies starring eager-to-improv funnymen, bloopers entertain readily here on an utterly serious drama.

Next up is "Fireproof: Behind the Scenes" (22:45), a promotional but substantial making-of featurette. In addition to sound bites speaking enthusiastically about the film and its messages, we get to be on location for various scene shoots that excite and challenge the down-to-earth production.

In "Marriage Matters" (7:20), the filmmakers and church volunteers sound off on the film's concepts, intentions, and metaphors. It briefly becomes a montage music video for Warren Barfield's "Love is Not a Fight."

Stephen Dervan, the film's comic relief, seizes more opportunities to amuse in "Wayne on Wayne." Writer/producer Stephen Kendrick talks about the book within the movie in his Love Dare Promo. Fireproof's DVD main menu breathes life (and fire) into the poster/cover art. While the silhouette technique is striking, it also allowed Kirk Cameron's real-life wife Chelsea Noble to stand in and get kissed.

"Fireproof in 60" gives us a one-minute version of the movie, introduced by the director.
This concise short consists of simplified dialogue and sped-up action, truly conveying the entire the film in just sixty seconds. This is both impressive and entertaining.

"Wayne on Wayne" (3:15) lets actor Stephen Dervan, Fireproof's comic relief, talk about the film semi in-character as overly confident firefighter Wayne Floyd, who considers himself "The Man." I can't figure out if I'm laughing with or at Dervan, but both this piece and his part in the movie supply mirth.

The "Love Dare Promo" (5:45) serves up numerous clips from the film. In between them, Stephen Kendrick discusses the principles of the real book that guided the film and is now available for purchase, assuming you haven't beaten up your computer on your front lawn.

On the DVD, "Fireproof Resources" is simply six scenes from the movie. They're supposed to be enhanced by discussion guides included with the disc's DVD-ROM components. In fact, the Adobe Reader documents are housed online and as of now, they're not available.

Lastly, under "Previews", we get trailers for Facing the Giants, Faith Like Potatoes, and The Note. Not only is that selection lighter and more dated than Sony's typical sneak peeks section, but the studio has also resisted (perhaps contractually) opening the disc with secular movie and Blu-ray promos.

Christian retailers are also selling a Special Collector's/Impact Edition of Fireproof with some exclusive bonus features, such as Wayne's firehouse commentary, a Casting Crowns music video, and a video blog.

The main menu provides an animated version of the DVD cover art that's backed by piano score. Besides fireball transitions, we get music but no motion on the submenus. An in-case insert provides a discount code for flowers.

Caleb Holt can save the lives of strangers as Albany's fire chief, but yet his own life is in jeopardy. Isn't it ironic? Are any of life's problems too big to be resolved by an ice pack and some Chick-fil-A? Maybe, but not the kind that trouble the Holts.


Why is it that the few films that overtly and thoughtfully address religion almost always wind up sappy, self-righteous, and lacking subtlety and proficiency? Despite surprising Hollywood with its strong attendance levels, Fireproof doesn't upset that correlation. This amateurish production plods along on its marriage-endurance conceit,
running a half-hour longer than the basic cable movie it feels like. Rarely in those two hours does it seem to capture any insight or verisimilitude. Regrettably, the only times the film moved me was with unintended humor.

If you're an evangelical Christian who's coming into this movie used to the low production values and corny stylings of the genre, maybe you'll find this surprising and enjoyable. Otherwise, those not seasoned on limited-budget inspirational fare will probably be surprised that something that'd be at home on the Lifetime Network did so much business in theaters.

On the upside, the Sony-distributed DVD does contain a fine feature presentation and number of value-adding bonus features.

More on the DVD / The Book: The Love Dare / The Couple's Kit: Fireproof Your Marriage

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Reviewed January 23, 2009.

Text copyright 2009 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2008 Affirm Films, Samuel Goldwyn Films, Provident Films, Carmel Entertainment, Sherwood Pictures,
and 2009 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.