Monday, February 11, 2013

Preaching to the Choir, Series 1: The Kendrick Brothers. Film 3: “Fireproof”

 While not as sharply written as “Facing the Giants,” “Fireproof” is the more successful (in worldly terms) film, partly because of the co-marketing of The Love Dare and other popular “Christian self-help” or study group materials, as well as a novelization of the film; but probably mostly because this was the first Kendrick film to include an actual celebrity “star”—a “name,” as they say.

Kirk Cameron’s person and talents are favorite subjects of ridicule from secular critics—being openly Christian in Hollywood has got to be the modern equivalent of being Daniel in the pit of lions. . . or, perhaps more appropriately for this film, of being Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego in the furnace.  But at least in this film (I haven’t seen the “Left Behind” series yet), that ridicule is definitely not deserved.  Cameron’s Caleb is an uncompromising performance, rising above the limitations of many of his scene partners (again, everybody else is a church volunteer), and above the sometimes clunky dialog (not terribly so, just in comparison to “Giants”).   

Although I feared that adorable Kirk might not be willing to sacrifice his “good guy” persona should the role require it, this was an unfair underestimation of Cameron’s craft as an actor.  Caleb is a complete and utter (and totally believable) bastard to his wife at the outset of the film, and his transformation is a journey well worth following.  Although his boyish looks initially work against our accepting him as the Captain of the firehouse, he simply owns his responsibility there, and soon enough we’re as on-board as his crew in respecting him as a competent firefighter and leader.  His genuine, vulnerable apology to his wife near the end of the film “leaves it all on the field”—well done.

While most of the other actors in the film again turn in sincere, but not soaring, performances, I do want to mention Ken Bevel as Cameron’s closest friend.  Watching the film, I assumed he was also a “hired hand,” and was surprised to see that he was “just” another church volunteer.  Strong, genuine presence and performance.

These guys are clearly picking up speed as they literally learn to make movies as they go.  There is some deft and even truly scary movie making here:  the “he said/she said” scene is cleverly written and edited, and the train rescue scene is a real pulse-racer.  The fire rescue scene (of course there is one) felt like real peril, and the “While I’m Waiting” montage, if not soaring, definitely has enough uplift to get off the ground (not to mention, making you want to go check out Warren Barfield’s albums).

Another keeper from the Kendrick boys.

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