Playing with Fire: Film Review

John Cena proved he was a good sport and surprisingly funny in Blockers so I felt hopeful about his next role in Playing with Fire, but I shouldn’t have been. The movie is pretty bad.

He plays Jake ‘Supe’ Carson, the boss of a division of smokejumpers – specialised wildland firefighters – in California. He is all work and no play because he’s determined to do his late father proud by getting promoted to Santa Barbara. His grand plans are derailed when the team save three children – Brynn (Brianna Hildebrand), Zoey (Finlay Rose Slater) and Will (Christian Convery) – from a cabin fire and have to babysit them at the depot for a few days.

Playing with Fire is just dumb. It tries so hard to be funny and rarely succeeds. Most of the jokes totally bomb because they’re too stupid or too desperate. I groaned at the number of lame jokes and slapstick comedy at the beginning because it was too much and ineffective. It felt like they were just throwing everything at it and hoping something stuck and it rarely did. The comedy moments actually worked better later on once you had got to know the characters, their personalities and the situation. I did laugh a few times later on – mostly at Keegan-Michael Key – and the kids near me seemed to enjoy it a lot.

It also put me off in the beginning because everyone seemed to be deliberately overacting and delivering heightened performances – which worked fine in the fun, mocking introduction of the smokejumpers as heroes in action – but was unnecessary the rest of the time. John Leguizamo was lumbered with some serious duds that made me cringe. The poor guy deserved better. However, despite the subpar quality of the comedy, I actually began to warm to the story once the children became less annoying and the comedy wasn’t as in-your-face dumb. The storyline is so predictable though.

Playing with Fire is clearly aimed at young children but that doesn’t mean it needs to be so stupid. It might wear thin on the parents but children will probably find it entertaining and enjoyable.

In cinemas from Boxing Day 

Rating: 2/5

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