A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Positive representation of importance of community helpers and emergency responders like smoke jumpers. Promotes keeping orphaned siblings together and impact of foster and adoptive parenting. Salutes intergenerational friendship and mentorship. Themes include courage, empathy, teamwork.
Positive Role Models
Jake and squad of smoke jumpers are brave, brotherly, kind. Several have playful sides that allow them to connect to, form bonds with the siblings. Jake is a man of order and organization; he's driven, disciplined, loyal. Dr. Amy Hicks is intelligent, environmentally aware, and kind (if not exactly a huge part of the film). The kids want to be together, to be safe, to be loved.
Violence & Scariness
Physical comedy and slapstick as kids wreak havoc at firehouse. Fire scene in which kids are saved is momentarily frightening, as are two scenes in which the kids are in danger of crashing or even falling off a cliff.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Flirting and eventual embracing/kissing between a couple. A teen tries to give a man advice on how to text-flirt with a woman he's interested in. One quick image of a smoke jumper's poster of a scantily clad woman's behind.
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Bathroom humor includes a joke about a preschooler pooping in her disposable training pants -- and the poop getting everywhere during a disastrous diaper change.
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Products & Purchases
My Little Pony (animated show, as well as merchandise -- toys and party supplies) is prominently featured. Other brands seen include Dell, Kleenex, Google, Sony, Suave for Men, and the massive commercial truck.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Playing with Fire is a family comedy starring John Cena as "Supe," an elite smoke-jumping squad leader who rescues three siblings from a fire and has to take responsibility for them until their parents can claim them. The kids wreak havoc at the firehouse, playing with equipment and testing the patience of by-the-book Supe and his loyal crew (John Leguizamo, Keegan-Michael Key, and Tyler Mane). There's not much iffy material, but you can expect a few moments of peril (fires, crashes, a near fall off a cliff), some bathroom humor (the littlest sibling's poop gets all over), and mild teasing between the kids and the adults. A couple flirts, embraces, and kisses; a teen tries to give a man text-flirting advice; and there's a quick image of a poster of a scantily clad woman's behind. The movie pays tribute to the courage of emergency responders and to the impact of intergenerational friendship and foster and adoptive parenting. The story encourages adults to prioritize family and friends over professional ambition and has themes of empathy and teamwork. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Like Arnold Schwarzenegger and The Rock before him, Cena capitalizes on the charm of no-nonsense alpha males tapping into their nurturing sides in this slapsticky action comedy. Playing with Fire isn't nearly as quotable or memorable as Arnold's Kindergarten Cop, but the cast has enough comedic chemistry to keep families entertained. Leguizamo and Key deliver most of the jokes, with mountain-of-a-man Mane existing primarily as a sight gag. The screenplay is familiar, but at least the emergency responders storyline feels relevant, given the ongoing wildfire crisis in California.
The three siblings range widely in age, so they hit a breadth of parenting issues, from potty training and My Little Pony play to lack of impulse control, mechanical curiosity, and adolescent angst. Unlike the movie Instant Family, which covered weeks and months of foster care, this film compresses the timeline to just a few days. That makes the mayhem the kids can cause on otherwise-organized adults' lives that much more manic. Younger viewers will particularly enjoy the big firehouse dog, as well as the various commercial trucks and tools and the downright silliness of the crew getting in touch with their childlike imaginations. Judy Greer co-stars as Jake's love interest, USDA environmental scientist Dr. Amy Hicks, but she's slightly underused until the final third of the movie.
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