Most Hollywood movies disappoint us with anti-heroes, but Kirk Cameron comes to the rescue in Fireproof: Never Leave Your Partner Behind. This movie was a surprise hit in theaters last fall and now it’s on DVD in time for Saint Valentine’s Day.
In Fireproof, Cameron stars as Captain Caleb Holt, a brave firefighter who saves strangers from peril. Nevertheless, after Caleb nearly dies while rescuing a child, he says, “The newspaper called me twice wanting an interview. Seems I’m a hero with everybody in the world, except my wife.”
Fireproof is the third feature film written by brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick of Sherwood Pictures in Albany, Georgia — a project of Sherwood Baptist Church where they are pastors, producers and directors. Their last film, Facing the Giants, was panned by some critics, but popular among Christians. Fireproof has a few moments characteristic of low-budget independent films, but it should duly impress everyone. It’s got gripping action, adventure, love and comedy.
Stephen Kendrick said, “We’re not going to Hollywood trying to win an Academy award. We are in the trenches, working with couples on a day-to-day basis.” So, instead of the usual fiction where boy-meets-girl, they sleep together, quarrel and somehow end up together, Kendrick said, “We decided that we wanted to take the audience on a journey of what’s really going on in marriages right now.”
Cameron makes it easy to admire the Capt. Holt, who leads his men with valor and good humor. At home, however, Caleb has spiritually abandoned his wife to obsessions such as Internet porn. When she wants a divorce, Caleb’s father (Harris Malcom) challenges him to “The Love Dare,” a 40-day rescue plan for his marriage. Since Caleb thrives on challenge, he accepts the dare.
Despite the beauty of the plot, it has overtones that the husband is more to blame than the wife. However, as Caleb humbles himself to Catherine (Erin Bethea), obviously both spouses are responsible for their marriage. Day after day, Catherine turns a cold shoulder to Caleb as he nobly tries to rekindle her faith in him. Worse yet, she betrays him to her coworkers.
Thus, Kendrick explained, “The initial reaction is that people care about Caleb ’cause he’s trying, but Catherine is hardened. But we said, let’s be as real as possible and then, ultimately, at the end of the movie, does the audience care about them getting together?”
Kendrick has noticed that wives usually take the first steps to salvage troubled marriages, but often husbands are oblivious. He stated, “There is a male tone in our movies to help men. Alex and I are very passionate about that as we’re working with men… If the men are willing to step up and be men and pour back into the relationship — that is one of the keys to saving marriages.”
Even though this movie deals with widespread crises such as addictions to porn, Fireproof is artfully made so that adults get the big picture and children don’t lose their innocence. After all, Kendrick said, “We know that this will end up in the DVD library of families and, during nap time, a seven year old may get it out and watch.”
Former teen idol Kirk Cameron walked away from typical Hollywood productions long ago, but the role of Capt. Holt is perfect for him in so many ways.
In real life, Cameron starred as Mike Seaver in ABC’s sitcom Growing Pains. Despite the adoration of millions of fans, 17-year-old Cameron was empowered through humility. At the height of his fame, young Cameron the atheist wondered, “If I die today and find out there’s a god, is He going to be impressed with my celebrity like everyone else?” That question changed everything in Cameron’s life.
He said, “It’s a whole convoluted web of twisted things in the entertainment industry. And when you try to take a stand, there’s a cost to it.”
That cost includes the challenge of romantic roles. Cameron said, “I love my wife. I promised to love and cherish her to the exclusion of anyone else. A lot of actors will justify a lot of stuff in the name of art. I don’t feel that way, so I won’t kiss any other woman other than my wife. I’ve had that conviction for years. And in this movie, there’s that touching and romantic scene where Caleb and Catherine come to some resolve in their marriage and Chelsea came in and played the role of Catherine in silhouette. How can you do a movie about marriage and your life without holding true to that?”
Indeed, Cameron has had that conviction for years. Once he became a Christian, Cameron wanted no part in leading anyone to sin, so he fought to remove sex scenes from Growing Pains — and often he won. Consequently, some ‘where are they now’ TV retrospectives mock Cameron as if his beliefs ruined the sitcom. Therefore, Cameron wrote his memoirs, Still Growing. Among the fascinating details, for 17 years Cameron has been happily married to Chelsea Noble, the actress who played his Growing Pains girlfriend, and they have six children.
Now Cameron is so committed to Fireproof that he volunteered his talents like the rest of the actors in this ego-free indie production. He said, “Love is not a feeling, it’s a commitment. Love is a promise and love is an action… What struck me most about Fireproof is they hit the bull’s eye on the issues that people struggle with in marriage. I think that people are going to say, ‘I’ve been there. That’s me. That’s my life. That’s my relationship on several different issues.'”
Cameron’s instincts were proven true by my friend Linda, a divorcée who saw a pre-release screening with me. As both of us wept at the conclusion, she said, “That’s exactly how it is.”
In the end, people do want Caleb and Catherine to triumph in love. As Cameron said, any man would “give his right arm” to hear what Catherine eventually tells her husband and it is profound in its simplicity — so profound that grown men cried too.
There is much more to the story of Fireproof: Never Leave Your Partner Behind. Whether you are married or single, this DVD would be a fine addition to your home movie collection.
[This story was first published by SperoNews.com prior to the movie’s theatrical release in September 2008 and has been updated for the DVD release.]