John Cena is probably the only wrestler-turned-actor that will even get anywhere close to the success of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

After impressive comedic turns in Trainwreck and Blockers, and a noteworthy ‘action man’ spin in Bumblebee – he has now landed a role in the ninth Fast & Furious film.

Which is the franchise that really put Johnson on the map.

But let’s remember before that, Johnson had to do his Hollywood learning curve through kids’ comedies – and Playing with Fire is to Cena what Tooth Fairy was to The Rock.

Which is basically completely innocent and mindless fun aimed at the demographic of 6-10-year-olds – which ‘misses’ more than it ‘hits’. Despite it still achieving its goal with a clichéd – but nevertheless poignant – heartwarming finale.

Basically this is a nineties comedy that we’ve seen many times – re-hashed.

Cena stars as stoic Fire Superintendent Jake Carson, a commanding officer of a group of highly-skilled ‘Smoke Jumpers’ in the remote California woodlands.

But when he, and his team – loyal ‘close-talker’ Mark (Keegan-Michael Key), nervy and neurotic Rodrigo (John Leguizamo) and mute man-beast ‘Axe’ (X-Men’s Tyler ‘Sabretooth’ Mane) – help rescue three kids from a burning lodge, raucous comedy ensues as they have to look after them with their parents unable to reach them.

Said kids come in the form of eldest daughter Brynn (Brianna Hildebrand of ‘Negasonic Teenage Warhead’ fame from Deadpool), middle son Will (Christian Convery) and youngest girl Zoey (Finley Rose Slater), who they – shock, horror – slowly bond with.

Enter slapstick humour at its finest – with sub plots like Judy Greer’s Carson love interest Amy, and Dennis Haysbert’s division commander assessing Carson for promotion, to ‘pad it out’ – as we innocently get from A to B with everything you’d expect and seen before in-between.

No-one does a particularly bad job here, with Key providing the most comedic relief, and it all plays out in a harmless fashion to provide briefly watchable family entertainment.

But let’s just hope Cena doesn’t put too many comedies like this on his CV – or it will be him that will be ‘playing with fire’ for his Hollywood future.

As a one-off though this is passably lukewarm.

ESP Rating: 2.5/5

Gavin Miller

Cast: John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, Judy Greer, Dennis Haysbert, Brianna Hildebrand, Christian Convery, Finley Rose Slate, Tyler Mane & Daniel Cudmore

Running Time: 1 Hr 36 Mins

Director: Andy Fickman

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