Playing With Fire Review

It’s difficult to observe the career of John Cena without comparing it to Dwayne Johnson’s. In many ways, Johnson forged the path for Cena to follow, out of the world of wrestling and into the world of Hollywood.

Strange then, that this film’s premise should remind me to much of a past film that starred the man once known as The Rock. Yes, many observers will note the resemblance of this film to The Game Plan (those who can remember this film anyway) a 2007 Dwayne Johnson vehicle about a man who knows nothing about children, tasked with suddenly looking after some. There’s even a dog that the children makeover, it’s uncanny.

But for all it may seem similar on the surface, there’s more than a few differences to talk about too, so let’s get to it.

Story

Superintendent Jake Carson (Cena) is a by-the-book leader of his squadron of firefighters in California. During one rescue they recover three children separated from their parents, and with a storm rolling in, they found themselves stick with them.

Verdict

About 20 minutes into the film, I thought it might have been one of the worst I’d seen all year.

The editing was so choppy you couldn’t tell what was going on, the dialogue was embarrassing and there were these strange, unnecessary sound effects added when characters came into frame that grated on my nerves more and more with each passing scene.

By the end of the 90-minute experience, I had softened somewhat, but I’m still sure that it’s one of the most poorly-written and stupid films I’ve seen all year, and I’ve seen Good Boys.

Let’s start with the script; now, I know this is a film predominantly aimed at kids, but that’s not really an excuse for a script that is so obnoxious at times. Granted there are a few moments that forced a brief chuckle, but the bulk of it is slapstick and toilet humour, that lands about as well as a custard pie to the face.

The characters are also not great, we’ve seen a character like Jake Carson what feels like a million times, including in The Game Plan, which makes me feel like I’m onto something. He’s the kind of archetypal male character who’s only about his work, and never shows any emotion, and honestly, I feel so bored of these characters, it’s just reflects poorly on writers who really seem like they didn’t care.

Nobody really gets an easy time of it here. John Leguizamo and Keegan-Michael Key both play loudmouth stereotypes, and we know for a fact that they’re better than that, and what’s worse is that they all look like they’re trying really hard to make their characters work, but there’s only so much you can do.

I know I should expect much from a Nickelodeon film, but it feels like it should be on Nick, like a failed sitcom that they stitched together and threw on the big screen, with its cartoonish reality, populated with characters springing up from nowhere with their own sound effects, and the most slapdash, zero effort love side plot. It all just reeks of hacks with no energy or creativity.

In the end, I felt sorry for the actors involved here. Maybe they had fun making this, but they must have known that it would end up being a mess when they first read the script. It’s a comedy with minimal laughs, or much of anything that anyone about five would find amusing.

In conclusion, a moronic script, and an overall uninspired direction, drags down this film, that so many people seem to be trying so hard to make work. As manufactured as Disney’s films seem, they at least manufacture some emotion, the only emotion I feel towards this is apathy.

*Post-script: I discovered why this film and The Game Plan are so similar; they have the same director. Unbelievable.

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