Playing with Fire

Dept. of Kindergarten Cop-esque Comedies


I love a good family matinee movie. One of those family friendly adventures that you can watch as a kid and not be scarred for life (or at least a couple of weeks). Matinee movies are also movies that are good to watch while the sun is up. It leaves you uplifted for the rest of your day, it isn’t mentally or emotionally challenging, and it makes you feel good about the world. At least until you check Twitter.

Movies like The Goonies and Little Rascals. Or Little Giants and Angels in the Outfield. All three Mighty Ducks movies. (Editor’s note: Seriously Bahir? All three?) Richie Rich. A good family movie isn’t just that it’s safe from nudity, swearing, violence, horror, and death. Heck, some of the classic movies that fall into that genre have challenging topics (see ALL of Pixar’s movies) ranging from loneliness to depression. Even death. What these movies aren’t, is sanitised. 

But they said that smokejumpers are not firemen……

Playing With Fire, however, is sanitised. It is a Nickelodeon TV movie writ large. It is silly over the top comedic set pieces, with funny sound effects, and over exaggerated facial reactions. The adults in the movie are all the adults in every Nickelodeon TV shows ever made. Overly stern to the point of being a comedic caricature, with a heart of gold in the third act.

Superintendent Jake “Supe” Carson. Also known as John Cena.

Action Man Superintendent Jake Carson is the commanding officer of a group of smoke jumpers in remote California. One day they go on a mission to save a log cabin that has just caught fire, save three young siblings and, through a combination of nature and miscommunication, have to shelter them until after the weekend. Hilarity does not ensue. 

The movie’s main problem is that it feels a lot like countless other movies we’ve seen in the past. The slapstick isn’t fresh. The comedy set-ups are all familiar. Literally. We were shown all of it in the trailer. The smelly poopy diaper joke? Check. The kid gets into a too-much-soap-causing-crazy-amounts-of-bubbles gag? It’s in there. The stoic captain who has never cried but will cry at the end because he actually is a big old softie? Yup. And yup.

The aforementioned too-much-soap-bubbles-gag.

There’s even an oil-slick-on-the-ground-to-stop-the-adults-chasing-the-kids gag. One might think that in this age of pollution that maybe movies should stop teaching kids that it’ll be funny to empty a big drum of turbine fuel in the middle of a forest that catches fire yearly so that adults can slip and slide a little.

Playing With Fire felt like it should have been a school holiday release. A movie to take kids to so that everyone can just sit in a dark air conditioned room and (hopefully) be quiet for two hours. But with as busy a December as we had, this would have made even less of a splash in Malaysian cinemas had it come out then. In the quiet January, it might do some business, but this could have been and should have been better. 

A big positive to come from this would be that John Cena is cementing his spot as the next actor to come out of wrestling with range, from obvious action roles (The Marine, Bumblebee, The Suicide Squad, Fast & Furious 9) to comedy (Daddy’s Home, Blockers). John Cena is also the host of Nickelodeon’s Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader revival so maybe there’s your market right there.

Also is it just me or is John Cena looking a lot like Ernest P. Worrell?

Playing with Fire
96 minutes
Director: Andy Fickman
Writers: Dan Ewen and Matt Lieberman
Cast: John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, Brianna Hildebrand, Dennis Haysbert, and Judi Greer

Bahir likes to review movies because he can watch them at special screenings and not have to interact with large groups of people who may not agree with his idea of what a movie going experience is. Bahir likes jazz, documentaries, Ken Burns, and summer blockbuster movies. He really hopes that the HBO MAX Green Lantern series will help the character be cool again. Also don’t get him started on Jason Momoa’s Aquaman (#NotMyArthurCurry).

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