PLAYING WITH FIRE
TACKLING California wildfires is child’s play compared with responsible parenting in director Andy Fickman’s brash family-oriented comedy.
Captain Jake Carson (John Cena), son of a decorated firefighter who perished in a blaze in Yosemite National Park, takes charge of an elite team of smokejumpers in Redding, California.
His well-drilled squad parachutes into forest fires and tackles each emergency by staring unblinking into the eye of the inferno.
Jake’s colleagues include wisecracking second-incommand Mark Rogers (Keegan-Michael Key), Rodrigo Torres (John Leguizamo) and aptly named silent giant Axe (Tyler Mane).
A storm rages around the fire station and a cabin catches light. Inside the collapsing structure, Jake and co discover three stricken siblings: Brynn (Brianna Hildebrand), Will (Christian Convery) and Zoey (Finley Rose Slater).
As first responders, the smokejumpers become temporary guardians of the tykes until the weather improves. Brynn, Will and Zoey run amok, leaving destruction in their wake.
Playing With Fire is a rare misstep for Cena. His charisma and self-deprecating charm are extinguished in an action-packed opening.
The uneven tone is glaringly evident in the final 20 minutes as tomfoolery is hurriedly cast aside to prize open characters’ hearts to the possibility of love in its many forms. Nothing sticks in the throat and chokes like an undeserved happy ending.
John Leguizamo, John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key and Finley Rose Slater (front)