At the beginning of this film, we see our core group of smokejumpers arrive on the scene while ‘Uptown Funk’ is played in the background, and during that, this certain reviewer blurted out, “Oh, it’s going to be one of those movies, is it?” Yup, it sure is…
Playing With Fire is the latest entry from director Andy Fickman, who’s known for giving us iconic classics such as She’s the Man, You Again and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. This is just yet another gem in that crown, obviously! The plot (though I’m being generous in calling it “a plot”) revolves around this team of smokejumpers looking after three troublesome children. That’s your movie right there.
There’s really not that much to say in regards to a movie like this. Obviously, it’s straight-up terrible family movie, but then again, what do you expect when you have Andy Fickman helming your movie? When you read the synopsis, watch the trailer, or see the posters, you already what to expect. This is a pure made-by-committee studio film that was made in order to broaden John Cena’s career, to widen his audience demographic. This tactical movie-making scheme happened before with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson; following his wrestling career, he started out in run-of-the-mill family films like The Game Plan and Race to Witch Mountain (both directed by Fickman no less!) before becoming one of the biggest movie stars of the current generation. Now, Cena is going for that same approach, but the problem is that this film is so incredibly dated and clichéd, it feels like a corporate family film you’d expect to see pop up during the 90’s or early-2000’s.
The humour in this film is the predictable type of family slapstick; people are getting thrown through solid walls, bunk-beds collapse on top of people, a kid is trying to wrangle an active fire-hose that’s flinging him around all over the place, Cena gets hit by a moving vehicle and he’s suddenly fine, and so on and so on. There’s nothing new here that we haven’t seen before; hell, we even have a romantic subplot involving Cena and Judy Greer, who plays a scientist who’s obsessed with toads (yeah, let that sink in…). It’s all pretty bad, but because of how bizarre and odd the film is in its own special brand of awfulness, it’s kind of fascinating to see. You almost feel like giving it an award for how memorably awful it is.
In the end, I can’t really recommend this movie for anyone. Playing With Fire is one of the worst films of that was made in 2019, but that’s really unsurprising at this point. If, for some strange bizarre reason, you feel like subjecting yourself to a bizarrely awful family film, knock yourself out! It’s surely something, alright!
Dir: Andy Fickman
Scr: Dan Ewen, Matt Lieberman
Cast: John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, Brianna Hildebrand, Dennis Haysbert, Judy Greer
Prd: Todd Garner, Sean Robins
DOP: Dean Semler
Music: Nathan Wang
Run time: 96 mins
Playing with Fire is available to download now and on DVD from 4th May 2020.