Cast: John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, Tyler Mane
Director: Andy Fickman
Watching Playing with Fire has made me seriously reflect on my childhood. Were Nickelodeon movies and shows always this bad? I seem to remember them making high-quality comedy and fantasy content, but oh how the mighty have fallen. Between this and Wonder Park, Nickelodeon seems to just be churning out whatever they can to make as much money as possible. A lame, juvenile comedy that only the youngest of audiences will enjoy, Playing with Fire can’t be saved by Cena’s charisma and end up taking 96 valuable minutes away from me that could’ve been spent doing something useful.
The film follows Superintendent Jake Carson (Cena), a no-nonsense smoke jumper who lives for his job and makes sure his firehouse is absolutely spotless at all times. When he rescues three children from a house fire, he has to take care of them until their parents come to pick them up. The wacky incidents that ensue are all related to these three reckless children coming in and bringing chaos and unruliness to Jake’s perfectly organized life and it’s up to Jake and his team to put everything back together while also bounding with the children. This is exactly the type of movie you think it is from the opening credits to the moment you walk out. Filled with predominantly physical and slapstick humor, Playing with Fire makes no attempt to try anything unique or special and as a result most audiences will get bored quickly. Slapstick can be very effective when it is fresh and revolutionary or is aided by verbal humor, but that’s completely absent from this movie. The saddest part is that Cena is such a great choice for a movie like this because of his natural charisma and ability to relate to general audiences, but the script is an absolute waste of his talents. I’m not expecting a movie aimed at younger audiences to be the next Apocalypse Now, but it really is unfortunate when a studio goes out of its way to make something generic and uninspired. I know what the goal of this movie, to be the type of movie parents can take their kids to that won’t have any major ramifications on their life, but there had to be something more to this movie that they could’ve added to make it unique. I’m almost at a loss for words because it’s the same type of movie for all 96 minutes and it gets old after about five. I don’t know what caused Nickelodeon’s business shift or if everything I watched as a kid was just as bad, but I really hope one day they go back to releasing some solid, more interesting movies. If Disney can make almost every one of their movies enjoyable for all audiences, there’s no reason why a rival studio can do the same with a smaller budget. Maybe they can start by not hiring a director responsible for one of the Paul Blart movies, but Hollywood is an old boys club that continues to reward money makers regardless of how poor the quality of their work is.
Overall, Playing with Fire won’t kill you, but there has to be something comparably better to watch that will bring you the same level of entertainment. For a movie that has some legitimately funny actors in it, I’m surprised by just how stale the entire thing feels and how the movie just refuses to break out and do anything new. We all know the saying if you play with fire you’re going to get burned, and after watching Playing with Fire I think I need a skin graft.
Overall Score: 3/10