Playing With Fire (2019). Review of the rescue men babysit troublesome kids comedy

Film still John Cena Playing With Fire 2019
Standard

Comedy

2 stars film review fair passes the time

Film review by Jason Day of Playing With Fire, the comedy about a group of Smoke Jumpers who babysit three troublesome children after their home catches fire. Starring John Cena.

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Synopsis

Superintendant Jake ‘Supe’ Carson (John Cena) is the rugged, super macho head of a group of Californian Smoke Jumpers – specialised teams who rescue people trapped in forest fires – and he runs a tight ship.

But the order and calm of his beloved depot in the hills is brought crashing around his ears when his team pick up three young children who were trapped in their burning home.

Unused to dealing with anything other than flames and smoke and talking to anyone other than Smoke Jumpers, Jake is knocked sideways by the kids’ rambunctious larks as they treat the depot like a new playground.

Review by @Reelreviewer

Poster Playing With Fire

I didn’t think it was possible, but the casting agents for Playing With Fire have managed to find an actor who is bigger than John Cena.

I’m going to slip (briefly) into ‘online dating profile’ mode now.

He’s called Tyler Mane, he’s 6ft 8 and his name features waaaaaaay down the cast list because, apart from occasional grunting, he doesn’t say a single word (spoiler alert…his surprising, operatic singing voice is dubbed by Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts).

You might recognise his towering self from the first X-Men movie (he played baddie Sabretooth) and, like Cena, he was also a professional wrestler.

This excess of burly, bulky brawn highlights the main situation in this slight variant on the A High Wind in Jamaica (1965) theme, namely how tiny, seemingly defenceless children outwit big, supposedly more intelligent adults.

It’s a shame then that Brianna Hildebrand, Christian Convery, Finley Rose Slater as the kids are underused because the focus of the script is on Cena or, to be precise, his muscled form.

Whether as a gay man I like looking at Cena’s body is one thing, but sitting in an multiplex with families and their children who are also seeing it is an odd experience. More than once I found myself thinking “get your kit on, John”.

With a few more jokes this could have been a funny, modern-day Home Alone style flick but it rests too much on the ‘cutesy’ set-up described above. The laughs are thinly spreadout and the good, panto performances aren’t enough to fill in the gaps.

Of those Keegan-Michael Key as sensitive Smoke Jumper and former accountant Mark is the stand-out. His habit of magically appearing at key moments to offer ‘new man’ advice and a handy pack of Kleenex is delightful enough to make you wish there was more of him…and he keeps his tee-shirt on, too.

For more, see the official Walden Media webpage.

Cast & credits

Director: Andy Fickman. 1hr 36mins/96mins. Broken Road Productions/Nickelodeon Movies/Paramount Players/Walden Media. (PG).

Producers: Todd Garner, Sean Robins.
Writers: Dan Ewen, Matt Lieberman
Camera: Dean Semler.
Music: Nathan Wang.
Sets: Brent Thomas.

John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, Brianna Hildebrand, Christian Convery, Finley Rose Slater, Judy Greer, Dennis Haysbert, Daniel Cudmore, Tyler Mane.

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