Cena Expands Comic Range in Family-Friendly Playing With Fire

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PLAYING WITH FIRE is the kind of family comedy we've seen before: kids vs. adults, with the kids safely maneuvering around dangerous situations, while formerly unflappable adults are suddenly incapable of handling themselves because they are new to dealing with children.

That's the setup for when a crew of smokejumpers go to a cabin fire, where they find three kids -- Brynn (DEADPOOL's BRIANNA HILDEBRAND), Will (CHRISTIAN CONVERY, DESCENDENTS 3), and Zoey (FINLEY ROSE SLATER in her acting debut) -- huddled under a piece of debris. Superintendent "Supe" Jake Carson (JOHN CENA, BUMBLEBEE) pulls them out of harm's way, and almost immediately comic incompetence ensues.

Because of "Safe Haven" laws, the crew of smokejumpers must keep the three children at their depot until their parents can pick them up. Which initially could be days. In the meantime, the rest of the crew -- KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY (TOY STORY 4), JOHN LEGUIZAMO (THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR), and TYLER MANE (HALLOWEEN, HALLOWEEN II) -- are forced to contend with out-of-control firehoses, a flood of bubbles, flare guns, nail guns, marathons of My Little Pony, and poop.

The incident couldn't happen at a worse time for Carson, as he is being considered for the position of Commander, and when outgoing Commander Richards (DENNIS HAYSBERT, THE UNIT) shows up for a surprise inspection, things are hardly ship-shape. But circumstances align themselves such that Carson and his crew are able to demonstrate bravery, courage and dedication in an unexpected way, leading Carson to discover what he is truly meant for, which includes letting down his emotional barriers and connecting with field biologist Dr. Amy Hicks (ARCHER's JUDY GREER).

PLAYING WITH FIRE isn't a great movie. But it is a good movie, and a funny movie, and the kids in the audience were laughing constantly at the antics -- and that's what the movie set out to do. KEY is a scene-stealer every time the camera is on him, and LEGUIZAMO has a funny running bit throughout where he misquotes anything and everything. And MANE -- he has perhaps some of the best moments of the entire film, as he silently looms over everyone with his ever-present axe.

For his part, CENA is well on his way toward becoming cinema's next ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER. He has the build, he can pull off the action, and he's demonstrated he's not afraid to play comedy even at the expense of his own character. If you're a parent with children and have sat through your share of Nickelodeon and Disney Channel movies, then you already have a good idea what you're in for: a family film where everyone will have a good time.

Grade: 
4.0 / 5.0