Director: Andy Fickman
Cast: John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo
Release Date: February 4, 2020
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 4/10
Disc Rating: 7.5/10
When firefighter Jake Carson (John Cena) and his team (Keegan-Michael Key & John Leguizamo) rescue three siblings in the path of a wildfire, they quickly realize that no amount of training could have prepared them for their most challenging job yet – babysitting. While trying to locate the children’s parents, the firefighters have their lives, jobs and even their fire station turned upside down and learn that kids – much like fires – are wild and full of surprises.
Jake Carson (Cena) and his elite team of smokejumpers are the best group of fearless firefighters around, but when they rescue three siblings from a burning building and are forced to care for them under the Safe Haven law while awaiting their parents’ arrival are faced with a rare challenge that they are anything but prepared for. Now, four men with no parenting experience whatsoever will have to find a way to care for these hyper and careless children as they wait out a storm at their home base fire depot. But as the kids start to get into everything within view, they quickly turn the depot into their own personal playground, leading to plenty of challenges for our firefighting heroes to tackle.
Directed by Andy Fickman (Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, The Game Plan) from a screenplay by first time screenwriter Dan Ewen, co-written with Matt Lieberman (The Addams Family 2019), and based on an initial story by Ewen, Fickman does a solid job at the helm of ‘Playing with Fire’ guiding the silly and predictable fun along with a fitting style and comedic tone. The film definitely benefits from many of the funny and talented folks that make up the cast which includes John Cena (Bumblebee), Keegan-Michael Key (Keanu), John Leguizamo (John Wick), Tyler Mane (Rob Zombie’s Halloween), Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool), Judy Greer (TV’s Kidding) and Dennis Haysbert (Breakthrough) along with more, the majority offering fittingly goofy and over the top performances in each of their respective roles that match the film’s overall vibe quite well.
‘Playing with Fire’ is a film with a very specific purpose, to create goofy wholesome fun for the whole family with some silly laughs, plenty of heart and naturally some life lessons and heartfelt matters coming together precisely as we’d expect. It’s certainly enjoyable and offers a number of laughs and heartwarming scenes sprinkled throughout some almost Looney Tunes like comedy, and younger viewers will probably have a great deal of fun with it and find few complaints within. While it undeniably manages to attain what it’s what aiming for and isn’t the slightest bit unpleasant to watch, it also really isn’t a very good movie whatsoever. It repeatedly plays by the most generic playbook imaginable, allowing nearly every minor element of the film to be effortlessly predictable and lacking anything even remotely close to originality. Everything from the kids and their temporary guardians developing a bond, to the adults with a looming love interest the direction of which is painfully obvious and more which all never bothers to do anything other than recite the basics and keep things blandly unimaginative. Yet nonetheless, there’s something quite appealing about it all and it makes for a thoroughly fun and enjoyable watch that’ll likely at least keep you smiling and giggling along the way. The surprisingly star studded cast of respectable talent throwing any cares out the window and just letting loose also makes for a guilty pleasure in itself that’s equally enjoyable to behold and quite possibly reason enough to give this one a chance eventually.
Overall, ‘Playing with Fire’ is an amusing comedy for younger audiences that always keeps things family friendly while providing ample amounts of heartfelt moments and silly laughs; engulfed in a generic package that plays everything by the most familiar formulas imaginable. ‘Playing with Fire’ definitely isn’t a quality film with anything new or overly noteworthy to offer, but it’s still recommended for those with younger kids as well as fans of the key cast who will probably at least enjoy seeing these talented stars let everything go and just dive into the goofy fun. If you have little ones at home or can go in expecting nothing but wildly over the top, silly fun then you’ll at least probably enjoy this one quite a bit, even if it may not be overly memorable.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Playing with Fire’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation with a 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks great as a whole and delivers a sharp, colorful and nicely detailed presentation from start to finish. It holds up smoothly even during the occasional darkly lit and fast moving moments, never allowing anything occurring onscreen to become negatively affected or rendered indiscernible at any point. Overall, this is a solid high definition video presentation from Paramount that suffers no notable faults throughout and should easily please fans of the film and casual viewers alike.
The Blu-ray release features a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This multichannel soundtrack does its job quite capably and offers a clean, crisp and occasionally somewhat aggressive audio presentation throughout. While a generally tame film largely occurring indoors, it does consistently take advantage of all five available channels during the firefighting moments and other outdoor action-like sequences, while also sending bits of dialogue and nature elements along with more throughout the various speakers whenever fitting, and never causing any dialogue or other audio elements that might be occurring simultaneously to become distorted or rendered inaudible along the way. Overall, this is a great 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack that delivers in every way necessary and never disappoints.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Playing with Fire’ offers some amusing extras for the entire family. Included on the release are numerous ‘Deleted Scenes’ from the film (running approximately 15 minutes in length altogether), in addition to some ‘Bloopers’ although unfortunately they are identical to the bloopers that run during the movie’s end credits (running approximately 2 minutes). Also included is ‘Storytime with John Cena’ (approximately 90 seconds) and a few Behind the Scenes Featurettes that include interviews/comments with the cast and crew, plus behind the scenes footage and more. They include: ‘Lighting up the Laughs’ (approximately 3 minutes), ‘The Director’s Diaries: Read by Star Cast’ (5 minutes), ‘What It Means to Be A Family’ (4 minutes) and ‘The Real Smokejumpers: This Is Their Story’ (2 minutes).