HEARERS OF THE WORD:‘Fireproof’ and ‘C Me Dance’ aren’t perfect, but enjoyable

I don’t often get to play movie critic at the Daily Journal, so I figured I’d have some fun.

“Fireproof” is probably the slickest, most highly produced of the smaller movies named in the feature story on this page. It was shot during the fall of 2007 in Georgia and the cinematography, bathed with warm hues and swaths of honey-colored light give the picture a cinnamon-and-cider feeling evoking the ambiance of Southern life.

Kirk Cameron is convincing as a valiant yet domestically insensitive firefighter. From his Carhart jacket to his ranch style home filled with Pottery Barn kitsch, he really looks the part.

However, the other merrily tubby fellows waddling around the firehouse, probably volunteer actors from Albany, don’t look much like the granite-armed beasts who flip tractor tires up the hill of Tupelo’s training center.

The movie is reasonably free of sanctimony, with the exception of a few pedantic and agonizingly scripted lines uttered by the actor playing Cameron’s father.

That maudlin creeps into the screenplay whenever Cameron and father get near a large outdoor cross that serves as a kind of ritualistic center for the movie’s more theologically weighted sequences.
“Fireproof” also has a couple of tiresome black caricatures. First, there are the finger-snapping, head-weaving female busybodies who work with Cameron’s wife at the hospital. They’re kind of like the Pine-Sol lady and don’t exactly offer a robust view of black womanhood. Then, there’s the theatrical cliché of the sage black friend who arrives in the form of a fireman working under Cameron at the department. The actor is pretty good but the character floats through the movie speaking in lofty analogies and parables: “You see, captain, a woman is like a flower. Water her, and she’ll bloom.” He actually delivers that line with a straight face.

The movie is not without its emotional gravitas. The scenes in which Cameron’s wife catches him viewing online pornography land like a slab of raw meat on a table. Cameron’s touch is deft and subtle in the movie’s later stages as he evokes the shame, brokenness and ultimate conversion of a contrite man.
“C Me Dance,” is a darker, riskier movie that tends more toward mysticism than Christian social commentary.

The dance sequences, performed by Ballet Magnificat, are impressive, and the long sequence in the middle is hypnotically beautiful.

From the opening credits one senses a big showdown on the movie’s horizon, as in Stephen King’s “The Stand.” Then, right on cue, Satan shows up, donning the unsurprising demonic uniform of cat-eye contact lenses and black trench-coat.

Writer and lead actor Greg Robbins gamely explores the ugly reality of physical evil in the world, and his performance shows the touch of years in the business. But even a veteran can only fit so much into a movie. From leukemia and ballet to demonic shape-shifting and visions of Jesus’ crucifixion, the viewer gets caught up in a dizzying vortex that, at times, moves too quickly.

The main characters in “C Me Dance” spend so much time changing everybody else they don’t have the time or the existential space to change very much themselves, thus they lack the arc that sates structure-hungry cinemaphiles.

Still, despite its flaws “C Me Dance” is creatively ambitious and bold. Not bad at all for a first outing. It’s clearly a labor of love and the viewer will walk away feeling jolted from his comfort zone and eager to discuss the movie’s meaning, good stuff for the coffee house or blogosphere. As Robbins explained, that’s what art is supposed to do, right?

Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at 678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com.

Galen Holley/Daily Journal