The helmer of Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is back with another family comedy about a virile crew of smoke jumpers babysitting a trio of rescued whippersnappers.
Playing With Fire (directed by Andy Fickman from a story by Dan Ewen) stars John Cena, Keegan-Michale Key, John Leguizamo and Judy Greer and is a hopeless, miserable, ham-fisted cinematic pratfall where man’s best friend in the firehouse emerges with a shred of decency in a plethora of misfires.
A firefighting foursome dramatically parachutes into a blazing California forest at the outset which may be a tad discomfiting for certain onlookers. Cena’s Superintendent Jack ‘Supe’ Carson is all business in sinewy, square-jawed form as his latest derring-do has him in line for a much-deserved promotion.
When three parentless siblings are pulled out of a burning cabin its up to Sup and his cohorts, played by Key, Leguizamo, and Tyler Mane – very protective of his to watch them for the ‘time being.’
Topsy-turvy just begins to describe what the crew must bear the eldest is like a curious apparition around the firehouse. The younger mischievous devils have fun with fish or nail guns, not to mention lighter fluid served up as well as scatological matter sure to elicit guffaws from the targeted audience.
This type of condescending is juvenile, indeed, but even many small fry will consider this pretty thick-witted. Knowing that there isn’t much work with here the cast does their utmost to make it appealing but to no avail. Cena had more to work with in more adult-minded comedies, Blockers and Trainwreck, whether espousing paternal angst or self-parody to rather amusing effect.
A highly dubious enterprise this Fire is to play with, Greer’s toad-friendly love interest is Dr. Amy Hicks passes on sagely advice about parenting even if it’s hard to believe she can back it up. You almost wish the Department of Children and Family Services could just put out all this uncontrollable juvenile hijinks because it’s hard to it’s hard to contain.