Captain Jake “Supe” Carson (John Cena) takes his job as a smokejumper very seriously. His expert team of firefighters include Mark Rogers (Keegan-Michael Key), Rodrigo Torres (John Leguizamo) and Axe (Tyler Mane). The crew are given their most daunting task yet when after saving three children – teenager Brynn (Brianna Hildebrand), Will (Christian Convery), and baby Zoey (Finley Rose Slater) – from their burning house, they are forced to take the rowdy kids in and look after them at their headquarters.
Commencing with an all-American rescue scene that recalls the underrated ‘Only the Brave’ (made on an extremely cheap budget), ‘Playing with Fire’ proceeds to become one of the most lazy, unoriginal, uninspired and unfunny features of the year. Every joke falls flat and the plot is porous with holes, for example, when the kids are being rescued, why are they totally calm, in spite being surrounded by fire, and why isn’t the smoke choking them? The firefighting team go from being represented as elite to unprofessional klutzes, they are bound to look after the children under the ‘Safe Haven law’ as opposed to, you know, the integrity of taking care of children when they’ve no adults or guardians around.
Honestly the kids are really not all that bad and the firefighters are rude and cold with them before they’ve even begun making trouble. The teenager actually seems to be the most mature of the lot – though later, she keeps seriously endangering her siblings so yeah, they all have a lot to learn.
There’s an awkward romance with Judy Greer’s Dr. Amy Hicks which feels totally forced and the whole Supe doesn’t show his feelings or let his guard down is a total cliché. Key’s thing is that his character pops up out of nowhere, unexpectedly (how hilarious…), Axe just walks around sullen and silent, carrying an axe, while Leguizamo cries when he sees other people cry. Still, such scenes aren’t the worst of the lot – there’s a far too long and gratuitous scene involving changing Zoey’s diaper and on the subject of number two, the other worst offender of the film is when Supe has to go in the woods, while holding Zoey and looking her dead in the eye.
Devoid of humour, feeling or effort, ‘Playing with Fire’ could be one of the worst movies of the year but the young kids in the audience of the screening this reviewer saw seemed to be responding well to such scenes as those poop scene, the depot filling up with bubbles, and the firefighters falling all over themselves when they get stuck in oil. It feels a bit like they did a survey of what children find funniest in movies and stuffed all those things in. If such endeavours counts for cinema these days, we need to let such movies burn.