Starring: John Cena, Keegan Michael-Key, John Leguizamo
Director: Andy Fickman
Running Time: 96 mins
Playing With Fire is an American film about a team of smokejumpers in the woods who unexpectedly become the custodians of three lost children, who initially interfere in their work, but soon become the apples of the firemen’s eyes.
As much as the A-list cast try to offer something different, Playing With Fire is first and foremost a kids’ movie, and one that doesn’t have much to offer older viewers. Kids will absolutely enjoy this movie, for its silly hijinks and jokes, but if you’re over the age of 10, you might struggle to find much to love about Playing With Fire.
So, there’s no denying that this film does the job when it comes to entertaining its target audience. John Cena is a big, cuddly teddy bear throughout, his fellow smokejumpers are a zany group of comic side characters, and there’s a very simple, but ultimately rather sweet central romance between Cena and Judy Greer.
The kids themselves, played by Brianna Hildebrand, Christian Convery, Finley Rose Slater, are perfectly nice throughout, although the drama that the screenplay tries to give their characters is a little one-dimensional, and doesn’t add much in the way of emotional depth to the movie.
What’s more, particularly in the opening half of the film, the kids are a little bit screamy to make things genuinely enjoyable. This can be an issue for older viewers in films directed squarely at children, and the rather shrill comedy proves more annoying than funny.
However, as the story unfolds, Playing With Fire becomes a lot more mellow, and you do begin to fall for the characters, particularly as the hard-shelled John Cena begins to warm to the kids, and the kids themselves begin to calm down in the smokejumpers’ station.
The vast majority of the movie takes place in the station in the middle of the woods, and although it feels almost claustrophobic early on, things do eventually begin to spread out into the wider landscape, which is a real relief – and helps the movie to no longer feel like being stuck in an aeroplane with screaming children.
So, while I’m absolutely not the target audience for Playing With Fire, and I think that young kids will like this film, I’ll say that it is a bit of a mixed bag. Early on, it’s almost insufferable, but as the story unfolds, things do mellow and become a little more entertaining. So, that’s why I’m giving Playing With Fire a 7.0 overall.