Playing With Fire Theatrical Review
Hildebrand is great and Convery and Slater are adorable in this film.
The fall season… the nights get cooler, the leaves change color, retail stores start gearing up for the holiday shopping frenzy and movie theaters start getting a variety of films to play. Of course, there are the Oscar-worthy set plus the action films intent on getting teenage boys out of the house and finally the family friend variety. Paramount Pictures, in association with Broken Road Productions and Nickelodeon Movies, tackle the latter category this month with the release of Playing With Fire. As families flock to movie theaters during the Thanksgiving school break, this is just one of the latest releases the whole family can enjoy.
Jake Carson (John Cena; Bumblebee) grew up in fire depots. His father was a superintendent with the smokejumpers - individuals who risk their lives jumping into forest fires to try to contain and extinguish them. His ultimate goal is to be commander and he has led an organized and disciplined life. Now that Commander Richards (Dennis Haysbert; 24) is retiring Jake sees his opportunity to reach his goal. However, at the same time, half his team walks out to join the "legitimate" firefighters and he suddenly finds himself and his remaining smoke jumpers guardians of three children.
Brynn (Brianna Hildebrand; Deadpool) is taking care of her two younger siblings, (Will Christian Convery; Beautiful Boy) and Zoey (Finley Rose Slater) while her parents are away when their cabin is caught in the wildfires and goes up in flames. Jake and his team rescue them and without parental supervision, they let the kids stay in the fire depot for the night. Of course, chaos ensues sending Jake into a rage but ultimately making all the smokejumpers fall in love with the children. Will their presence ruin Jake's plans to be Commander? Will the smokejumpers find out the truth about Brynn, Will, and Zoey? Will this movie be as predictable as you think it might be?
There is an old saying in Hollywood – never work with children or animals – and there is a good reason for it. They typically steal the show and in Playing with Fire this is very much true. Hildebrand is great and Convery and Slater are adorable (The latter being incredibly so). While I am not a fan of Cena, he does okay in this role, showing more emotional range than we have seen from him in the past (which isn't actually saying all that much). John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge!) is solid and blends well with the cast and Keegan Michael Key (Keanu) is his usual brilliant self. Of all the adults, he is the standout.
This film is a "by the numbers" money grab for family entertainment during the holiday season and it doesn't pretend to be otherwise. There are moments when the production value decreases (i.e. green screen) and the script was obviously written very quickly. It is nice that Leguizamo and Key could improvise many of their lines because I'm sure it made for some of the funnier moments in the movie. There is also the obligatory love story between Jake and Dr. Amy Hicks (Judy Greer; Jurassic World) that really adds very little to the film.
Let's face it… this is not cinematic history in the making. You need to go into the movie with fairly low expectations but if you do you will have a pleasant few hours. It's cute but very predictable with a few laughs thrown in. It isn't memorable either but I'm sure it isn't meant to be. If you are a fan of Cena or you are looking for a wholesome film you can take the whole family to you should go see Playing with fire.
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 96 minutes
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures
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