'Fireproof'

As sincere, uncynical and subtlety-free as a Sunday school lecture, "Fireproof" is another aggressively inspirational drama from brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick ("Facing the Giants," "Flywheel"), pastors at the Sherwood Church of Albany, Ga.

As sincere, uncynical and subtlety-free as a Sunday school lecture, “Fireproof” is another aggressively inspirational drama from brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick (“Facing the Giants,” “Flywheel”), pastors at the Sherwood Church of Albany, Ga. Produced, like its predecessors, for the church’s Sherwood Pictures unit with a largely volunteer cast (including top-billed Kirk Cameron) and crew, the pic represents a notable uptick in tech values and narrative sturdiness for the filmmakers. The faithful may flock to megaplexes to generate modestly impressive B.O., but “Fireproof” likely will find its true calling as an instructional tool for moderators of faith-based marriage-counseling programs.

Cameron is genuinely compelling as Caleb, a work-obsessed firefighter on the verge of divorce from his neglected wife, Catherine (Erin Bethea), a hospital PR rep. Caleb’s born-again dad (Harris Malcom) encourages his son to commit to “The Love Dare” — not a TV gameshow, as its name might imply, but a 40-day, Bible-inspired program designed to help spouses restore frayed ties.

Initially, however, Catherine resists reconciliation. For one thing, she’s upset by Caleb’s habit of trolling Internet porn sites. (Not surprisingly, the filmmakers are extremely discreet, if not downright evasive, in their handling of this plot wrinkle.) For another, she’s increasingly attracted to an attentive co-worker.

Happily-ever-aftering is inevitable in this type of pic, especially when characters rely heavily on the power of prayer. But the Kendricks test their aud’s patience by unduly delaying the feel-good payoff to Caleb’s “Love Dare” crusade.

Bethea’s lack of acting experience is too obvious by half. But supporting players cast as Caleb’s firehouse buddies — most of them nonpros — provide snatches of welcome comic relief.

Fireproof

Production

An Affirm Films release, presented in association with Samuel Goldwyn Films, Sherwood Pictures, Provident Films and Carmel Entertainment, of a Kendrick Brothers production. Produced by Stephen Kendrick, Alex Kendrick, David Nixon. Executive producers, Michael C. Catt, Jim McBride, Terry Hemmings. Directed by Alex Kendrick. Screenplay, Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendrick.

Crew

Camera (color), Bob Scott; editor, Bill Ebel; music, Mark Willard; production designer, Sheila McBride; sound (Dolby), Rob Whitehurst; assistant director, Ben McLeod. Reviewed at AMC First Colony 24, Houston, Sept. 26, 2008. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 122 MIN.

With

Kirk Cameron, Erin Bethea, Ken Bevel, Harris Malcom, Jason McLeod, Stephen Dervan, Eric Young.

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