“Playing with Fire” stars John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, Brianna Hildebrand, Tyler Mane, Judy Greer, and Dennis Haysbert. Released on November 8, 2019, the film has a group of firefighters taking care of three troublesome siblings.
The film is directed by Andy Fickman, who also directed films such as “She’s the Man”, “The Game Plan”, “You Again”, and “Parental Guidance”. Some people think that taking care of a bunch of kids would be a piece of cake. Others think otherwise, and by “others”, I mean a group of firefighters. This should be interesting. This latest family comedy comes from Andy Fickman, who’s no stranger to films that involve a famous actor dealing with kids in ridiculous situations. While these types of films usually don’t fare too well with critics, they provide plenty of heart and sometimes hilarity to entertain kids and their parents, and this film looks like it might join that list. Question is, is it good enough for me to warrant a recommendation?
The story follows a team of rugged smokejumpers, consisting of Jake Carson (Cena), Mark (Key), Rodrigo (Leguizamo), and Axe (Mane). They do what they always do best, which is saving lives. Their latest mission, however, has them testing their patience and their sanity as they are tasked to watch over three children that they rescued from a fire. Let me start this off by saying if you’ve seen the likes of “The Pacifier” and “The Game Plan”, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting yourself into in “Playing with Fire”. In fact, this is pretty much John Cena’s answer to Dwayne Johnson’s “The Game Plan”. You know, since these two were professional wrestlers and they both star alongside child actors. Still holding my breath for them to make a movie together. It’s a lowbrow, kid-friendly comedy that has a bunch of grown-ups being constantly outsmarted by young children, and surprisingly, it’s not as fun as I thought it would be. One of the main reasons is the story. Despite a few charming moments that made me smile, particularly Cena, Hildebrand, and the child actors (Christian Convery as Will and Finley Rose Slater as Zoey), the film’s plot didn’t take full advantage of its concept and relied heavily on its simplicity, cliches, and plenty of slapstick jokes that resemble every live-action sitcom from the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. There’s plenty of plot elements that they could’ve explored more to make the story a bit more interesting, such as Cena’s character’s team and the smokejumper missions. Maybe have the team try to prove themselves that they’re not the worst smokejumpers in the world or something like that? Sure, it’s another formulaic plot element, but I think it would’ve been more entertaining than just have the adult characters make a fool out of themselves in almost every scene. There were also some parts that felt rushed, mostly due to the editing that’s as fitting as the editing from a television movie. Another reason is the film’s humor, which consists of poop jokes, slapstick, and plenty of yelling. You know, stuff that you would usually find in kid-friendly cartoons. It had a few humorous moments that got me chuckling, but other than that, it’s filled to the brim with repetitiveness, blandness, and embarrassment. It’s more focused on making the kids laugh than coming up with jokes that were smartly written for people outside of its target audience, which is the most common flaw that plagued the other below-average family films from the past.
Overall, “Playing with Fire” is the type of fire that’s far too massive to contain. It meant well in delivering the charm to its cast and its messages, but its effort kept getting overshadowed by its irritating flames of stupidity. With its formulaic story, bland characters, and dumbed-down humor, the film is more suited as a television film for Nickelodeon rather than a theatrical film from Nickelodeon Movies. This is another comedy that didn’t work well for me, but I think young kids and their parents will most likely enjoy it for its humor because everyone has different tastes in humor, especially children. As for those who aren’t fans of these types of comedies, they’re better off watching some of the award-worthy films that are out this year.