Manchester Evening News - - FILM REVIEWS -

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)

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