Fireproof is a movie that exceeded expectations at the box office opening weekend. With a production budget of only about a half million dollars it managed to clear upwards of $6.8 million according to Box Office Mojo. That’s exceptional by any standards – a 1,360% return. Even if you figure that the marketing budgets for most films generally are about equal to the production budget, getting nearly 7 times your money back in three days is good for business.
To put it into perspective, the highest grossing opening weekend of all time to date is The Dark Knight (the latest installment in the Batman franchise. If The Dark Knight had the same kind of return, it would have made about $2.5 billion (yes with a b) on opening weekend instead of the record $158 million of its $185 million production budget.
Then figure that most successful movies get released in upwards of 4 times as many theaters as Fireproof was this weekend. The Dark Knight was over 5 times as many.
However you slice it Fireproof is a financial success.
Gorgeous and I couldn’t get to the theater to see it on opening weekend but did venture out for a date night last night. We stopped at the food court in the mall for some Sbarro’s and went to see the flick.
Much Better Production Quality
Usually I hesitate to go see movies in the theater that I know are overtly faith based. Usually that label means the production quality is horrid. Well unless the film has $30 million or so of Mel Gibson’s money behind it, that is.
I think of movies like Left Behind and I cringe. Obviously that film had a compelling storyline based on a wildly popular novel. Unfortunately the low production quality of films like that only helps to marginalize Christians as out of touch.
The good news is that Fireproof is raising the bar. Considerably. It’s still not at Hollywood standards, mind you, but we’re moving in the right direction for sure.
Realistic Portrayal of Difficult Subjects
Fireproof deals with the challenges of marriage and addiction in a way that’s believable. The movie especially nails marriage challenges. Marriage is complicated and the film covers a wide range of emotions from raging anger to broken crying.
And they do it without going over the top and getting hammy.
There is one sequence that’s especially well done that cuts back and forth between the lead characters that demonstrates the differences between men and women especially accurately and throws in a touch of humor too.
Addiction is never an easy subject to address. And it’s not unusual for Christian media to sterilize the issues and paint simplistic solutions. In contrast, Fireproof handles the challenge of addiction in an honest and believable way.
Some Great New Performances
As an aspiring actor I was glad to see some good performances from the cast largely made up of newcomers. Most folks know Kirk Cameron and he’s some professional challenges since he became an outspoken Christian. Fortunately in this film Cameron delivers across a wide range of emotions.
He nails some of the argument scenes he plays opposite newcomer Erin Bethea at the beginning of the film. He’s intense without going over the top. Cameron’s performance is the glue that holds this film together. But it is far from the only note worthy one.
I was most impressed with Ken Bevel’s debut performance. He does an outstanding job as Cameron’s confidant and best friend. It turns out that Bevel is an active duty Marine Corps Captain and used his accumulated leave to get the time off for shooting the film. Ooh-Rah! I suspect he will be able to move into acting should he choose to leave the Corps.
Stephen Dervan provides the comic relief for the film. He has one scene that made Gorgeous and I both totally crack up. It was another fine performance from the new cast.
The only real disappointment I found, and it is a small one, is that the film came across as a little preachy to both Gorgeous and I. I’m not sure what the fine folks at Sherwood Pictures intended. But I don’t think Fireproof will resonate with a general audience.
This morning Gorgeous made the comment that the movie felt a little like a Sunday School lesson. Some might disagree with me but I think they could have toned down the preaching a bit.
Ultimately most Christians will probably find Fireproof to be decent entertainment. Gorgeous and I really enjoyed it.
I’m just not sure how many non-Christians will find the film appealing.
All in all, Fireproof is a fine piece of storytelling that raises the bar for Christian productions across the board. It was well worth the cost of admission. I’m looking forward to more entertainment along these lines.