Playing with Fire: Not Hot


Will Peng, Staff Writer

Playing with Fire is a family comedy directed by Andy Fickman and starring John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, and John Leguizamo. It follows a group of firemen who rescue three children from a fire but must now take care of them because their parents are missing. The firefighters then face the challenge of keeping the naughty kids under control.

This movie is definitely not aimed at high schoolers; it’s more for kids ages 8 to 10. The jokes in this movie are simple and cheap. That would be fine, but oftentimes the movie goes overkill with these jokes, using them too often, pulling the joke out for too long, or just generally executing them badly. There’s plenty of bathroom humor and slapstick comedy, but the movie strangely also relies on cartoonish sound effects sometimes for exaggeration. This may give the movie a lighter tone but it doesn’t add to the comedy.

Many of the jokes are centered around the kids’ mischief, but frequently what the kids are doing is not just mischievous, but also really dangerous, and sometimes downright illegal. Don’t get me wrong, kid mischief can be comedic, but as I was watching the movie I could not help but think that what the kids are doing is way too reckless. The kids inflict plenty of damage upon the firemen’s equipment, enough for me to guess that they could get arrested for their actions. For example, there’s a scene where the kids steal a truck and leak the oil barrels outside so the firemen if they try to chase after them. The movie doesn’t acknowledge how illegal this is since the firemen don’t really face serious consequences for their actions. I feel like this could have been really funny if they had just addressed how serious the problem was.

One positive thing about this movie is the performances. Cena, Key, and Leguizamo are all great at acting their characters. Cena’s pretty good at maintaining a super-serious persona, which is what the movie was trying to portray his character as. Key’s also great at comedic acting, and he’s arguably the best in the entire movie at executing his jokes. However, the over-the-top exaggerated acting just doesn’t work; it makes the jokes a fraction better, but not by much.

The story the movie tells is also bland and predictable. It follows the same pattern— apologies in advance for spoiling the same plot that hundreds of other movies use–that countless other movies follow: a serious professional ends up having to deal with kids, which they are inept at doing; the kids mess around a lot, causing a lot of trouble and making the adult’s life way harder; the adult learns how to deal with kids and also how to loosen up; while all this is happening, the adult begins to reconcile with his former girlfriend; after the adult saves the kids from a dangerous event, he ends up becoming the paternal figure for the kids, and his girlfriend the maternal figure. The serious moments in the movie don’t work either, they just appear with no smooth transition between comedic scenes and serious scenes.

Overall, this movie is not for high schoolers. The acting’s good, the jokes aren’t. If you’re a student at Irvington, chances are you’ll find, like me, that the bloopers that are shown in the credits will end up being funnier than the entire movie. The only thing that’s hot in the entire movie is John Cena; seriously, he gets plenty of opportunities to take off his shirt in the movie, and he’s ripped.