Playing with Fire Review

Ben Peyton reviews Andy Fickman’s new family flick, Playing with Fire.

Director: Andy Fickman

Starring: John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, Brianna Hildeband, Christian Convery, Finlay Rose Slater, Judy Greer, Tyler Mane and Dennis Haysbert


John Cena’s no-nonsense, by the book, emotionally stunted smokejumper (specially trained firefighters who provide an initial-attack response on wildland fires by parachuting into remote and rugged terrain – thanks, Wikipedia), Jake Carson, rescues three children from a burning building. Along with his eccentric crew, he needs to look after them for the weekend before their parents arrive to take them home.

However, all is not as it seems with the youngsters whilst the ill-prepared heroes struggle to adapt to parenthood. Throw in a potential promotion depending on the results of a surprise inspection by the retiring district boss (Haysbert), the beginnings of an awkward romance with the local doctor (Greer) and Carson’s ordered world is turned upside-down in chaotic and explosive (beware the poop gag) fashion.

Will the children be able to rekindle the dying embers of the hapless Chief’s cooling heart? Of course they will! We know from the off how it will end, but it’s the journey to get there that matters and Playing with Fire is funny, surprisingly moving and never pretends to be anything other than an amusing, frivolous family movie.

John Cena skippers the film, and his crew of smokejumpers, with natural charm and it’s a terrific showcase for his comedic skills. Ably backing him up are his three amigos, Mark (Key), Rodrigo (Leguizamo) and Axe (Mane). All have their own quirks and, together, their banter and gentle teasing is one of many highlights.

The kids are a likeable bunch even if Brynn’s (Hildebrand) sarcastic teenager is too cocksure and Zoey (Slater) seems a little old to not be toilet-trained, whilst the excellent Judy Greer isn’t given enough to do and becomes the children’s surrogate mother a little too quickly and easily. Some of the slapstick humour won’t be for everyone, but the shenanigans are all harmless and in these occasionally dark times, sometimes all you need is to watch a WWE star struggling to change a nappy.

For children of all ages, Playing with Fire is so full of heart that it’s almost impossible not to get caught up in the irresistible warmth of it.

Playing with Fire lights up UK cinemas from Boxing Day.


Need more of a family film fix? See what Ben thought of new movie Dora and the Lost City of Gold here.

Read more of Ben’s reviews here.