Playing with Fire
Playing with Fire is brought to screens by the studio that made Daddy’s Home and Daddy’s Home 2, and is directed by Andy Fickman, who in the past has spearheaded Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 and She’s the Man. If these introductions don’t set the tone for what type of film Playing with Fire is going to be, then there isn’t much more to be said.
Jake Carson (John Cena) is a smokejumper through and through, the profession drilled deep into the fibres of his existence. He is driven by one aim: to advance from Superintendent to Commander, what his deceased, heroic father always wanted of him. When the opportunity finally arises, an obstacle far more difficult to handle than the greatest of blazes arises: children. When Jake and his elite team of firefighters save the lives of siblings Brynn (Brianna Hildebrand), Will (Christian Convery) and Zoey (Finley Rose Slater), a storm of chaos ensues around the station, turning not only the lives of his team upside down, but Jake’s career and romantic aspirations too.
Films targeted at younger audiences and with a cast full of comic celebrities are almost always predictable. In the case of Playing with Fire, this is no different. The film begins with attitude, arguably even a sense of cool, but too soon it turns into a complete mess, with carnage and screaming dominating the opening 45 minutes of its 96-minute run time – effectively half of the film. This provides very little time for any character development, and when it does eventually arrive, the anticipation is swiftly decimated by the rushed delivery of its dialogue.
To put this in context: midway through the film’s second act, one tiny audience member, presumably the target audience for the picture, belted out “Mummy, what even is this film?” much to the amusement of the rest of the room. The funniest part was that she certainly wasn’t the only one thinking it. There is direction to the plot of Playing with Fire, but a large majority of it is simply a series of nonsensical shenanigans that try desperately to show the wild attitudes and personalities of children.
This said, Playing with Fire does seek resuscitation during the final 30 minutes, with humorous scenes finally hitting the nail on the head, but sadly this momentum collapses in the closing moments, as the frustrating predictability factor returns in order to complete the plot circle. It is not for the lack of expertise in the acting department that this film is how it is. On the contrary, John Cena delivers the performance that we have come to expect from him, and other actors such as Keegan-Michael Key bring the Saturday Night Live-style humour that makes younger audiences laugh. The only problem is that the comedy featured is subpar and brainless, even by SNL’s low standards.
There is fire, there is action, there are crowbarred love scenes involving Cena and toad-loving scientist Dr Amy Hicks (Judy Greer). But more importantly to the writers, there is low-grade over exaggerated humour, poop, topless John Cena, and lots of My Little Pony. Make of it what you will.
Playing with Fire is released nationwide on 26th December 2019.
Watch the trailer for Playing with Fire here: