TITLE: Playing With Fire
DIRECTOR: Andy Fickman
SCREENWRITER: Dan Ewen, Matt Lieberman
STARS: John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, Brianna Hildebrand, Judy Greer, Tyler Mane
RUNTIME: 96 minutes
CINEMATIC RELEASE DATES: Australia (12th December 2019), Thailand (23rd January 2020), UK (26th December 2019), USA (8th November 2019)
HOME ENTERTAINMENT RELEASE DATES: TBA
CLASSIFICATIONS: Australia (PG), Thailand (TBC), UK (PG), USA (PG)
Unless you’ve got a young family Playing With Fire is the kind of film that you would probably completely ignore. As we learnt earlier this year though with Instant Family you judge comedies by the cover at your own peril, and while Playing With Fire is not anywhere near as good as the aforementioned film it is a film that will certainly entertain your family while offering the odd laugh here and there as well.
The film centres around a team of smoke jumpers lead by their heroic leader Jake Carson (John Cena – Bumblebee, Trainwreck). The team which consists of, the ambitious Mark (Keegan-Michael Key – The Predator, Let’s Be Cops), the loyal Rodrigo (John Leguizamo – Spawn, Moulin Rouge!) and the silent Axe (Tyler Mane – X-Men, Halloween).
While the hard-working team are often over-shadowed by their flashy counterparts the stoic Jake is surprised to learn that he has been selected to apply for the position left by the retiring Commander Richards (Dennis Haysbert – Heat, The Thirteenth Floor), a career move that would see him follow in the footsteps of his father.
With Jake running his station like a tight ship he should be able to pass Richards’ inspection with ease however every well laid plan is thrown out the window when the team rescue young Zoey (Finley Rose Slater – newcomer), Will (Christian Convery – Venom, Beautiful Boy) and their teenage sister Brynn (Brianna Hildebrand – Deadpool, The Exorcist) from a burning shack only to have them take up temporary residence at the fire station until their parents can be found.
While Playing With Fire is an enjoyable watch it is also a film that will frustrate you as well. The film works best when it tells its more natural and heartfelt story. When the film looks at Brynn trying to hold her family together while Jake tries to work out why her parents seem to be avoiding coming to the station then the film captures its audience’s emotion and works brilliantly well. Likewise the story of Jake living in his father’s shadow and his nervousness around his love interest, Dr Amy Hicks (Judy Greer – Ant-Man, Jurassic World), tugs at the audience’s heart-strings but the film then seems to lose its way when it goes for the over the top comedy that seems childish even for the younger viewers of the film.
For the most part the comedy of Playing With Fire does work though, even to the point where the screenwriting team of Dan Ewing (first time feature writer) and Matt Lieberman (The Addams Family, The Christmas Chronicles) may have created one of the funniest scenes of the year when it comes to Rodrigo and Jake having to change the nappy of Zoey with brilliant comedic timing. The fact that the comedy works so well is made even more special when you realise that director Andy Fickman (She’s The Man, Race To Witch Mountain) is really put to the test with a film that sees him have to direct action sequences, slapstick comedy and touching family drama moments with very little respite in between.
Playing With Fire also showcases the wide acting range that John Cena can now deliver. Ex-wrestler Cena started his career in action flicks like the under-rated 12 Rounds but has shown over recent years that he is also comfortable delivering comedy in films like Trainwreck and Blockers without delivering a dud like Vin Diesel’s The Pacifier. Playing With Fire also shows while Brianna Hildebrand is an actress on the rise. While we are used to seeing her play the moody and aggressive Negasonic Teenage Warhead in the Deadpool franchise but here we see a more heartfelt side to her acting and it is easy to see that she has a big career ahead of her.
While Playing With Fire may not look like the kind of film that most serious film lovers would enjoy, this is the kind of film that can be enjoyed by family members of all ages. At times the film does get a little silly but the film works best when it shows a little bit of heart.