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Movie Review

'Fireproof' sounds the alarm for a marriage in trouble

By Michael Hardy
Globe Correspondent / September 27, 2008
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Think of "Fireproof" as melodramatic, made-for-TV schlock, and as long as you mentally replace the Lifetime Channel with the Christian Broadcasting Network, you won't be far off the mark.

Director Alex Kendrick gives an evangelical twist to all your favorite Lifetime tropes - infidelity, marital strife, therapeutic crying sessions - but that twist, far from breathing new life into these tired scenarios, instead makes them even more risible.

The plot reads as though it were ripped from a Mitch Albom book. Catherine and Caleb, a thirty-something couple with perfect smiles and blow-dried hair, are celebrating their seventh year of marriage in a picturesque suburban McMansion. Of course, there's trouble in paradise: Caleb has a rage problem and is addicted to pornography, and, not surprisingly, Catherine wants a divorce. At the last minute, Caleb's father steps in with a 40-day marriage recovery guide, which he's written and guaranteed to work. Every day, the book offers Caleb a tidbit of relationship advice (buy Catherine flowers, cook her dinner, etc.) followed by a Bible verse.

Director Kendrick seems to care less about his characters' relationship with each other than their religious fealty. We start to realize this when Catherine meets a charming doctor at the hospital where she works. Compared to Caleb, who needs some very worldly help, preferably from a psychiatrist, this doctor is a dream. But Kendrick is so intent on saving Caleb and Catherine's sacred covenant that he sabotages this budding romance, forcing Catherine to take Caleb back out of sheer desperation. One of the film's songs advises couples who get married to "lock the door and throw away the key." That sounds more like prison than holy matrimony.

With the production values of a straight-to-video cheapie and the script of a mediocre soap opera, "Fireproof" is good for just about one thing: dousing whatever flames might be left in your marriage.

Fireproof

Directed by: Alex Kendrick

Written by: Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendrick,

Starring: Kirk Cameron, Erin Bethea, Ken Bevel

Running time: 122 minutes

Rated: PG (thematic material and some peril)

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