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Home Movies Playing with Fire (2019) – Review, Summary (with Spoilers)

Playing with Fire (2019) – Review, Summary (with Spoilers)

by Amari
Published: Last Updated on

Playing With Fire is both a silly film with great chemistry amongst the adults and kids and one which offers a bit more to its characters than expected for a kid’s movie.

Community Rating: 0.00% (0) - No Community Ratings Submitted.


Director(s)Andy Fickman
Screenplay ByDan Ewen, Matt Lieberman
Date Released (Theatrical)11/8/2019
Genre(s)Family, Comedy
Good If You LikeDouble Act Comedy

The Comedic Shticks of Keegan Michael Key and John Leguizamo

Depth Coming In The Form Of Family Relationships, Or Lack There Of

Noted Cast
JakeJohn Cena
Commander RichardsDennis Haysbert
BrynnBrianna Hildebrand
WillChristian Convery
ZoeyFinley Rose Slater
MarkKeegan-Michael Key
RodrigoJohn Leguizamo
Dr. Amy HicksJudy Greer

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Plot Summary/ Review

Like his father, Jake Carson is a smokejumper. Meaning, when there is a fire, like a forest fire, his people come in from the sky and provide aid rather than in trucks or from the land. This job is very important to Jake and with the retirement of Commander Richards, he sees the opportunity to do what his father wasn’t able to do. However, between a team short-staffed and three kids, Brynn, Will, and Zoey, his pursuit of becoming commander might be thrown off thanks to the safe haven law.


Everyone Plays To Their Strengths By Essentially Playing Themselves

For those familiar of how John Cena acts on talk shows, the work of Keegan-Michael Key, or John Leguizamo, when it comes to their characters, you get what you’ve seen before. However, this isn’t a bad thing. When it comes to Cena, him playing the square makes for many comedic moments, especially since he plays the straight man to Key, who is sometimes as manic as we’d see him on Key and Peele. I’d even say, for the kids in the audience, he may have stolen the show from John Cena.

As for Leguizamo? While he does sometimes feel like he is in the shadows of Cena and Key, when he gets moments to step out, he makes the most out of it. Primarily through working with the kids who definitely are assets to the film.

For example, Slater’s timing and lines are probably the main things you’ll remember once the film is over – especially when speaking about the comedy. As for the other two? Convery gets to play up his youth and also tap into the emotional capacity of an 8 year and Hildebrand? Oh, between their back and forth with Key, and her facing off with Cena – multiple priceless moments. But, also as the oldest, she uses them to bring something more to the film than hijinks.

As The Film Goes On, It Mixes A Sense Of Emotion With Its Comedy

What is a kid marketed family film without a bit of depth? I won’t go into what it is, but let’s just say, while Playing With Fire isn’t trying to win big-time accolades, we are reminded that everything isn’t fun and games with these people. For as much humor as the film has, we’re reminded everyone has a past, some of it isn’t happy, and survival is beyond making it out of a fire. Sometimes it is about finding reasons to go in and get out.

On The Fence

You Will Be Tempted To Check Your Watch At Least Once

While funny, and it may get you teary-eyed, even at a little over 90 minutes, there will be a point where you might feel they are dragging things out. Specifically due to some of Brynn’s antics that add a good 10 – 20 minutes. Yet, it is with her trying to escape that we get some of the emotional depth deserving of praise.

Rodrigo’s Past

When it comes to Rodrigo, he is the only character who presents this idea of having a culture in the film. Mark is just a guy who happens to be Black, but with Rodrigo speaking Spanish, talking about how his family cooks, and things of that nature, it is made clear he is Latinx. Making the fact he mentions formerly being in San Quentin, a prison, a bit of a mixed bag.

For, on one hand, it isn’t explicitly said he is an ex-con. Yet, at the same time, even if he is, with Rodrigo having a job that serves his community, and being a good guy, should it matter? Also, would it be so bad to show someone who is reformed, even if they are a person of color?

What Dr. Amy Hicks Brings To The Film

As much as you have to appreciate the film showing a woman who is a doctor in biology, with Dr. Hicks, I can’t say she was an asset. For one, she ultimately is just a love interest to Jake, and when it comes to comedy, she doesn’t add all that much. She is someone to play off of for Jake, and while one could say Mark also is someone for him to play off on, Mark does shine when not interacting with Jake. Dr. Hicks, on the other hand, you could easily cut and, I’d submit, the film wouldn’t be hurt by it at all.

Overall: Mixed (Divisive)

Playing With Fire should play well with kids thanks to the combination of Key and Cena, who make for the kind of duo who should work together repeatedly. Add in Leguizamo, who provides his skills, and you get a not only a funny film but one which fleshes out its character far more than you may expect for a family comedy. For whether it is dealing with loss, why they joined the smokejumpers or planning for a future which is fulfilling, you might get thrown off by how this film, towards the end, tries to tap on your tear ducts a bit.

Which makes it a bit hard to label this as divisive. But, there is no denying that, as much fun as you’ll have, this film does push towards overstaying its welcome. Also, between Rodrigo’s past raising an eyebrow, and Dr. Hicks, like Rodrigo, presenting diversity, but you having to question if it truly added value to the film, that is why this is being given the mixed label. Just barely.

Playing With Fire Ending Explained, Recapped and Spoiled

So we learn Brynn, Will, and Zoey are orphans, and when the threat of being separated came, Brynn took them, and that led to them hiding out in the cabin. The place where Jake rescues them from after they accidentally burn the place down. Now, as for how, for more than a week, they fool Jake into thinking their parents are on vacation? Brynn just uses her cell phone.

However, after a certain point, as Brynn tries to run away again with the kids, they come clean. Leading to Jake trying to postpone them leaving until after Zoey’s birthday, but on the day, the social worker shows up. Then, to make matters worse, Commander Richards arrives to inspect Jake and consider him for his soon to be former position.

But, ultimately, Jake decides he’d rather adopt the kids, and use the safe haven law to fend off social services, than take the commander job. Oh, and he also eventually gets married to Dr. Hicks since the kids bring them together. Mostly by texting emojis.

Is A Sequel Possible?

There could be a follow up. Between Dr. Hicks getting pregnant and how that plays into the family dynamic, Jake maybe getting injured, if not us getting a prequel of sorts featuring his dad, there is a lot they can do with this film. Heck, speaking of a prequel, they could show how everyone ended up part of the same team.

Movie Directory

An old school film reel drawn by artist Dean Nelson.


  • Recommended: Some of the best-seen movies we have ever watched and mentioned to friends, family, and strangers as films that need to be seen.
  • Positive (Worth Seeing): Whether you’ll have to go to the movies, download, or stream, movies of this category are worth your time and money with few, if any, qualms from us.
  • Mixed (Divisive): Due to this movie having a few quirks, of which may work for some and for others be a problem, we believe your enjoyment of this movie will depend on your taste.
  • Negative (Acquired Taste): While one or two elements kept us going until the end, unfortunately, we’re of the opinion this film never reached the potential it was marketed to have.

Special Categories/ Tags

  • Indie: By our definition, independent films are films you have to seek to find due to limited availability or lack of a marketing push.
  • Film Festival: Featured in this tag are films and shorts which were discovered thanks to various film festivals, so some of the productions may not have wide availability but still may deserve to be on your watch.
  • Shorts: Be it ten or fifteen minutes, or a half-hour, these quick teases or films get right to the point, often show the potential of filmmakers and the actors who have joined them in their journey.
Everyone Plays To Their Strengths By Essentially Playing Themselves - 85%
As The Film Goes On, It Mixes A Sense Of Emotion With Its Comedy - 84%
You Will Be Tempted To Check Your Watch At Least Once - 76%
Rodrigo’s Past - 75%
What Dr. Amy Hicks Brings To The Film - 70%


there is no denying that, as much fun as you’ll have, this film does push towards overstaying its welcome.

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