Fireproof

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Opened: Friday, Sept. 26 (Samuel Goldwyn Films)

Its impressive opening weekend boxoffice serving as a testament to the continued demand from the heartland for inspirational movies, "Fireproof" might as well have been titled "Criticproof."

This drama about a loveless marriage that is given new life by faith arrives courtesy of the sibling filmmaking team of Alex and Stephen Kendrick, who scored with their similarly Christian-themed "Facing the Giants." The film opened Sept. 26 without advance press screenings, playing in only one theater in apparently Godless Manhattan.

Starring Kirk Cameron -- who has made a specialty of faith-driven films -- and a largely nonprofessional cast, the film centers on the fraying marriage between Albany firefighter Caleb Holt (Cameron) and his wife, Catherine (Erin Bethea), a hospital PR director.

Caleb, whose work motto is "Never leave your partner behind," has failed to apply the dictum to his wife, neglecting her in favor of, as she derisively puts it, "Pleasing himself on the Internet."

His concerned father (Harris Malcolm) provides him with a handwritten 40-day plan for restoring his marriage called "The Love Dare," featuring heavy Christian undertones. Although resistant at first, Caleb dutifully follows its recommendations even while his disaffected spouse becomes increasingly receptive to the flirtations of a co-worker.

It won't be revealing any spoilers to confirm that by the film's conclusion the main characters have not only reconciled but also display a newfound faith. (Or, as Caleb puts it to a devout fellow firefighter, "I'm in!")

While hardly sophisticated in its approach and certainly not polished in its technical elements, the film does get its heartfelt message across with undeniable sincerity. Its success at the boxoffice, which will no doubt continue on home video, demonstrates that there's no shortage of filmgoers dissatisfied with cynical Hollywood product.

Production: Affirm Films/Sherwood Pictures/Provident Films/Carmel Entertainment.
Cast: Kirk Cameron, Erin Bethea, Ken Bevel, Harris Malcom, Jason McLeod, Stephen Dervan.
Director: Alex Kendrick. Screenwriters: Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendrick.
Executive producers: Michael C. Catt, Jim McBride, Terry Hemmings.
Producers: Stephen Kendrick, Alex Kendrick, David Nixon.
Director of photography: Bob Scott.
Production designer: Sheila McBride.
Music: Mark Willard.
Editor: Bill Ebel.
Rated PG, 122 minutes.


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