Two years ago, there was a big controversy when Facing the Giants, an ultra-low-budget movie produced by a church in the Bible Belt, was rated PG, allegedly for its spiritual content. Pundits and politicians railed against the MPAA and its ratings board for its perceived bias against religious themes, and moviegoers rallied to the film's defense at the box office, making it one of the most successful Christian movies of all time. But as the debate over the movie's rating subsided, another controversy emerged. Some Christians praised the film for its positive, family-friendly values, while others condemned it as bad art, a bad story badly told that would only encourage the worst artistic instincts of the evangelicals who saw it.
Personally, I came down somewhere in the middle of that debate. Yes, the script, by director Alex Kendrick and his brother Stephen—both of whom are pastors at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia—had a tendency to pile on the happy endings, to make rededicating one's life to Jesus look like the magic trick that would solve all of life's problems. But I have acted in church drama groups, and in at least one video sponsored by my denomination at that time, and I have a sense of how hard it can be to get even mediocre work out of a mostly-volunteer, non-professional cast and crew. Seen in that context, the Kendricks' film was remarkably impressive, and instead of slamming it, I wanted to encourage their artistic growth.
Thankfully, their newest film, Fireproof, is indeed a step up, though it presents new challenges that the Kendricks' earlier films never quite had to deal with. The story this time concerns a firefighter named Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron) whose wife of seven years, Catherine ...1