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Playing with Fire

  • Film
Photograph: Doane Gregory/Paramount

Time Out says

Macho dads discover their softer side to unfunny effect in this brain-assaulting slapstick-athon.

There’s a longstanding tradition in Hollywood that if you put an uber-macho beefcake in a situation where they have to care for a child, it’s a recipe for hilarity. A man? Looking after a child? What next! Admittedly it can work (‘Kindergarten Cop’) but more often than not, it doesn’t (‘Race to Witch Mountain’ and ‘The Tooth Fairy’). And that’s certainly the case with ‘Witch Mountain’ director Andy Fickman’s latest dead-eyed family film.

In this slapdash, slapstick comedy, real life action man John Cena stars as a ‘Smoke Jumper’ – a firefighter who parachutes into to tackle wildfires in California. He’s a duty-bound tough-guy type, living in the shadow of his fire-chief father’s legend. He’s shacked up in the firehouse with three other devoted, and loveable meatheads (Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, and Tyler Mane), and his pet mastiff, Masher – yes even the dog has to be hyper-masculine. While applying for a promotion, Cena and his hapless crew end up rescuing three siblings from a burning log cabin, and chaos ensues.

It’s all nappy and fart jokes, accompanied by Cena inexplicably removing his t-shirt every five minutes to show off his rippling physique. The firehouse is trashed in a series of set pieces by the overly curious tykes, but, lo and behold, their antics teach these emotionally pent-up men that opening your heart is the path to true happiness. Judy Greer also makes an appearance as Dr Amy Hicks, Cena’s token love interest and budding herpetologist. She’s there to remind Cena that there’s more to life than running a tight ship and fire regulations.

It’s just all so witless and flat, coming across like a daytime movie on a kid’s channel with a higher-than-normal production budget. It’s difficult to see how anyone would find this funny, let alone entertaining.

Written by
Joseph Walsh

Release Details

  • Rated:PG
  • Release date:Thursday 26 December 2019
  • Duration:96 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Andy Fickman
  • Screenwriter:Dan Ewen, Matt Lieberman
  • Cast:
    • John Cena
    • Keegan-Michael Key
    • John Leguizamo
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