Parents' Guide to

Playing with Fire

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Cena charms, but slapstick-heavy comedy doesn't fully spark.

Movie PG 2019 96 minutes
Playing with Fire Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 7+

Based on 31 parent reviews

age 10+

Super disappointed in this review by common sense

It’s partly my bad for not reading the “positive elements” section before having my family watch this together. THIS IS A HUGE FOSTER AND ADOPTIVE TRIGGER MOVIE. The entire premise is that the kids are orphaned and running away from being put into foster care by Cps. I’ve never been so disappointed in common sense for not giving a better warning much less labeling it POSITIVE?!?!
age 6+


Pretty clean movie, some funny parts. I found it creepy that a 3 yr old needs a diaper change, totally inappropriate. We teach our children to never allow anyone let alone strangers see their private parts. This scene is totally irresponsible and disturbing.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (31 ):
Kids say (35 ):

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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