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Andy Fickman
John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo
Writing Credits:
Dan Ewen, Matt Lieberman

A crew of rugged firefighters meet their match when attempting to rescue three rambunctious kids.

Box Office:
$30 million.
Opening Weekend:
$12,723,781 on 3125 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Audio Description
German Dolby 5.1
Latin American Spanish Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
French Canadian Dolby 5.1
Italian Dolby 5.1
Japanese Dolby 5.1
Brazilian Portuguese Dolby 5.1
Bahasa Malaysian
Latin American Spanish
Brazilian Portuguese
French Canadian
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin American Spanish
Brazilian Portuguese
French Canadian

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 2/4/2020

• Deleted Scenes
• Bloopers
• “Storytime with John Cena” Featurette
• “Lighting Up the Laughs” Featurette
• “The Director’s Diaries” Featurette
• “What It Means to Be a Family” Featurette
• “The Real Smokejumpers” Featurette
• DVD Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Playing with Fire [Blu-Ray] (2019)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 23, 2020)

As he continues his push away from pro wrestling and into movies, 2019’s Playing with Fire finds John Cena in new territory. Here he tries to break into the wild world of kid-oriented family comedy.

When a wildfire tears through the wilderness, a team of “smoke jumpers” led by Superintendent Jake Carson (Cena) intervenes. As he and his colleagues act, they rescue three kids from a cabin.

Until Jake and company can locate the parents, the law dictates that the firefighters must care for the kids. This leads Jake and his pals to deal with wacky challenges.

I don’t know if Cena consciously modeled his movie career after that of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but they follow obvious parallels. Like Johnson, Cena started with action flicks before he moved to adult comedy and then eventually kid-oriented fare.

In Johnson’s case, his first family foray came from 2007’s Game Plan, a flick with a plot that heavily echoes that of Fire. In both, manly men sorts get forced to care for kids and struggle to deal with these circumstances.

Of course, that theme goes back at least as far as 1987’s Three Men and a Baby, itself a remake of a 1985 French film. Toss in stuff like 1990’s Kindergarten Cop in no one will find an original theme to Fire.

Though the trailers made Fire look like trite kiddie fare, Cena’s presence allowed me to hold out hope it’d work. He turned heads with his funny supporting role in 2015’s Trainwreck, and his great work in 2018’s Blockers made me a real fan.

Does Fire add to my appreciation of Cena’s work? Yes, mainly because he occasionally almost makes this lowest common denominator comedy amusing.

Almost, though not quite. Cena gets help, as the overqualified cast also includes Keegan-Michael Key, Judy Greer and John Leguizamo.

With that much talent involved, some laughs inevitably result. This crew could read the proverbial phone book and churn out at least a handful of chuckles.

Most of these emerge at the start, as the film’s depiction of Jake as a cartoon super-firefighter offer the best amusement. Cena plays these scenes to the hilt and gives us a few funny bits.

Once the kids enter the scene, though, the situation completely collapses. From that point on, the story hews heavily toward cheap slapstick and poop jokes, none of which connect.

If Fire opted wholly for the under-10 crowd, I’d respect it more. While this wouldn’t entertain me, I’d appreciate its purity – hey, kids need their own movies, too!

But Fire offers too much halfhearted sop for adults. Well-made films can pull off quality material for youngsters and grown-ups at the same time, but Fire doesn’t know how to do so.

This means an oddly unbalanced story. We spend an awful lot of time with plot points connected to Jake’s job as well as his potential relationship with the Greer character, topics that feel unlikely to do much for the kids in the crowd.

These create an awkward contrast with all the child-oriented material. The film might’ve worked for those little ones if it’d concentrated on the wacky hijinks, but it leaves these elements behind far too often to satisfy that crowd.

And as noted, the adult-oriented stuff fails to go anywhere that’ll please the grownups. All the stabs at these themes feel contrived and artificial, so we never really invest in the characters or plot points.

As mentioned, the actors boast too much talent to leave Fire as a complete disaster. However, it wastes those performers too much of the time and becomes an erratic, disjointed effort.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus C

Playing with Fire appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie boasted a pleasing image.

Sharpness worked well. Virtually no softness emerged during this accurate presentation.

I saw no shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws also failed to become an issue.

Like many modern movies, Fire went a lot of amber and some teal as well. Predictable as the colors tended to be, the Blu-ray rendered them in an appropriate manner.

Blacks looked dark and deep, while shadows seemed smooth and concise. I felt happy with this high-quality presentation.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it added involvement to the proceedings. The five channels used music in an involving manner, and various effects also broadened the soundscape in a positive way.

While not a film packed with action, Fire came to life enough to work the speakers well. Various vehicles and elements of natural disaster moved around the room in a convincing pattern to contribute some life to the tale.

Audio quality worked well. Speech seemed concise and distinctive, while effects appeared accurate and natural. Louder moments – such as from various fires and whatnot – boasted fine punch.

Music was warm and full, with a good level of punch from percussive elements. All of this left us with a more than satisfactory “B+” soundtrack.

A mix of extras fills out the disc, and we find a few featurettes. Storytime with John Cena runs one minute, 27 seconds and shows Cena’s attempt to tell Three Little Pigs. It’s mildly amusing at best but the usually reliable Cena overacts too much for a lot of fun to result.

Lighting Up the Laughs fills three minutes, five seconds and brings remarks from Cena, director Andy Fickman and actors Brianna Hildebrand, Christian Convery, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, Judy Greer, and Finley Rose Slater.

They offer thoughts about the silliness on the set. Nothing memorable results, though we get some decent shots from the production.

With The Director’s Diaries, we find a five-minute, five-seocnd clip that features Cena and Key. Through the shoot, Fickman would send daily summaries to all involved, and the actors read excerpts from them. This becomes a moderately enjoyable glimpse behind the scenes.

What It Means to Be a Family goes for four minutes, 32 seconds and features Hildebrand, Cena, Key, Leguizamo, Greer, Fickman, writers Matt Lieberman and Dan Ewen, producer Todd Garner and actor Tyler Mane.

They tell us about the different ways families can exist and the “movie family” behind Fire. It’s fluffy and not especially interesting.

For the final featurette, we head to The Real Smokejumpers, a two-minute, 34-second clip introduced by Cena. From there we get a quick overview of the smokejumping job via comments from unnamed firefighters. It’s a worthwhile topic but we don’t learn much due to its short running time.

13 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 14 minutes, 43 seconds. These tend toward extensions to existing sequences, not completely new segments.

As such, the clips fail to add a whole lot. They give us a little additional exposition and some character tidbits – along with an otherwise cut cameo by Joe Manganiello – but nothing especially amusing or memorable.

Finally, we get a collection of Bloopers. This reel spans two minutes, 33 seconds and provides the usual goofiness. These same bits appear during the movie’s end credits, so this presentation feels superfluous.

Thanks to a talented cast, Playing with Fire manages the occasional laugh. However, these remain few and far between, as the movie becomes an awkward mix of slapstick and sentimentality. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals and very good audio along with mediocre bonus materials. Fire fails to satisfy.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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