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Playing With Fire Review

November 8, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Playing With Fire John Cena
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Playing With Fire Review  

Directed By: Andy Fickman
Written By: Dan Ewen and Matt Lieberman
Runtime: 96 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for rude humor, some suggestive material and mild peril

John Cena – Jake Carson
Judy Greer – Dr. Amy Hicks
Keegan-Michael Key – Mark
John Leguizamo – Rodrigo
Brianna Hildebrand – Brynn
Christian Convery – Will
Finley Rose Slater – Zoey
Dennis Haysbert – Commander Richards
Tyler Mane – Axe

WWE megastar John Cena stars in the goofy children’s comedy, Playing With Fire. It’s not very far off from other goofy family movies that saw testosterone-fueled action stars showing their softer, more comedic sides when forced to deal with small children. It worked to great financial success for Vin Diesel with The Pacifier and Arnold Schwarzenegger with Kindergarten Cop, but less so with Hulk Hogan in Mr. Nanny. At best, Playing With Fire is inoffensive, juvenile-oriented family fare. At worst, it’s very predictable, inane, forgettable kiddie fare.

Hotshot smokejumper Jake Carson is the strict, ultra-disciplined workaholic super-intendant of his fire depot in Redding, California. With the pending retirement of Santa Barbara district Commander Richards (Haysbert), Jake hopes to nab the prime spot and ascend the ranks. The catch? His depot has been forced to babysit three wayward children Jake rescued from a cabin fire: teenaged Brynn (Hildebrand), young Will (Convery) and youngest sister Zoey (Slater). Their parents are mysteriously away at the moment, so the rugged, ragtag members of Carson’s division have to watch over them in the interim.

Unfortunately for Jake, the children madly crimp his highly regimented, organized lifestyle. Not to mention, they are getting in the way of his job application for District Commander and a looming firehouse inspection. Of course, Jake and his subordinates, Mark (Key), Rodrigo (Leguizamo) and the steely Axe (Mane) reluctantly bond with the unruly children. One can easily predict that the normally career driven Jake has to learn a lesson about family and staying together.

Playing With Fire is a formulaic, paint-by-numbers kids movie. It’s goofy and silly, with all sorts of physical slapstick and juvenile, gross-out humor. It’s not especially good, but for its target audience, the film is likely a comedic masterpiece. For its targeted age set, this movie will probably work and serve as a fun diversion. Cena’s straight-man routine as the strict, strait-laced firefighter forced to deal with a group of energetic, hyperactive, uncontrollable kids is passable at best. It’s never especially all that funny.

Keegan-Michael Key and John Leguizamo are both incredibly talented comedians and actors. They’re basically dialing their style down here to be more appropriate for the kidlets. Their work in Playing With Fire is adequate, but also not especially their most humorous material. Key probably had the single best moment in the film, but it’s unfortunately relegated to the outtakes section during the credits. However, their charisma is still undeniable.

Interestingly enough, it’s amusing to see Tyler Mane, Sabretooth of the original 2000 X-Men movie, show up here in a somewhat prominent role as the silent and intimidating Axe. He does get a humorous gag quite reminiscent of Hollywood slasher-horror films, which is appropriate considering his history with the Halloween franchise.

Playing With Fire is not a great comedy. It’s a kids’ sitcom level plot that’s predictable and follows all the familiar, usual beats. It’s not especially funny or believable, but for the kids it caters to, the film will probably work in splendid fashion. Parents who are dragged to the film by their children might enjoy the stoic Super Cena goofing it up here.

Everything is hammered home and unsubtle here, but nothing is terribly bad or inappropriate. The general message and thematic morals of the film are nice. The plot does feature a lot of contrived developments regarding the children in order to move the plot forward. The setups for some of the sillier gags are ridiculous, but this is a fairly ridiculous type of comedy.

Playing With Fire is not traditionally good. But considering what it’s going for, the film will likely be a success and play like gangbusters for the young Cena fandom. Basically, imagine John Cena doing The Pacifier, and that’s this film.

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
Playing With Fire is a silly kids movie that plays mainly for kids. It doesn't pretend to be anything else. It's not especially good or groundbreaking. The premise and gags are fairly paint-by-numbers. It's fairly inoffensive and tame. It's not really good, but from the perspective of the audience, the kids who were watching the film at the advance screening were highly entertained. The the main point of Playing With Fire's existence. The film is acceptable fare for children to watch and have a good time, but that's about it.