There are movies released almost every weekend. Some good, some bad. Then there are ones released that transcend being simply good or simply bad. They are the golden goose of greatness or the golden goose of trash. If one were to look at any piece of marketing material for Playing With Fire it would be easy to write it off as childish schlock. However, after one would see the movie, they would soon discover an entirely different beast. The gates of hell are currently open in almost every cinema across the country. If one buys a ticket to this movie, they are booking their first class ticket to hell. There are several ideas on what defines a bad work of art. To me, bad is the absence of good. No movie currently playing has a lack of good in it than Playing With Fire.
Okay, I know directing a movie is hard. It’s a really tough job and I feel bad knocking a director because they always put their heart and soul into their work. So, I do not say this lightly, but there was absolutely no heart or soul found here. I’ll tackle the horrendous editing later on in the review, but the basic shots were all wrong. Anybody who took a basic film school production course knows you can’t film shots in random angles with no reasoning. The movie has no flow and no structure in any capacity. It’s one of the more amateurish looking movies I have ever seen. It feels like the director showed up to set every day without a plan and just shot the movie in random ways. There is nothing of value found in the direction of the movie.
There is absolutely no story to be found here. There is semblance of one in the first 30 minutes, but the conflict there is quickly and stupidly resolved. The following 40 minutes felt like 2 hours and consisted of nothing but unfunny juvenile schtick. I know humor is subjective, but outside a child that is no older than 9 years old, I can’t fathom a single person who would find any “joke” in this movie funny. This movie is a crime against comedy; it’s not even just bottom of the barrel. It’s the floor underneath the barrel. While there are no actual jokes in the movie that land, it has an abundance of poop jokes. So, if that tickles one's fancy, it’s made for them. The movie honestly taunts the audience with its lack of plot or narrative structure. Once the resolution with the children wraps up 30 minutes in, you spend the rest of the movie wondering when it would end. The story had essentially concluded and it leaves the audience confused as to why they are still there being beaten down by terrible joke after terrible joke.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The performances here are all terrible. I think John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, and John Leguizamo are all talented individuals that are so far above this performance. Judy Greer is Hollywood’s best kept secret and she is slumming it here. Brianna Hildebrand stole all our hearts in Deadpool as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, but she is bad here as well. The only actor who surprisingly goes unscathed is Tyler Mane. Mostly because he doesn’t have to say anything and some of his reactions were mildly humorous. Cena and Key try to elevate the material, but it’s a lost cause when the material is so sub-par. Instead of harping on them, I will say one should look up John Cena’s charity work. The man is a grade A human being and definitely did not deserve to be saddled with this. He makes the most of the nothingness he is given.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The movie opens with “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars playing over a forest fire. You tell me how the score and sound design was. Your guess as to what “Uptown Funk” has to do with forests and or fires is as good as mine. Just like everything else with the movie, there was no rhyme nor reason to any of the creative decisions made.
This is the movies biggest flaw, as it is so poorly edited that I had no idea what was going on at any point of the movie. All one needs to know about how to not edit a movie can be found here. Hell, it can be found within the first 3 minutes. In the span of like 5 seconds we would go from a shot of John Cena talking, cut to a low angle shot of Tyler Mane reacting, cut to them walking in slow motion for 2 seconds for no apparent reason, and cut to them talking again. There was no rhyme nor reason to any of the editing decisions made here. It felt like the editor was banging his head against his desktop and let fate decide how the movie was cut together. It would not surprise me if the editor gave his pet monkey a bag full of sugar and locked him in the editing room. I had a headache within mere moments of the movie starting. The editing was so obnoxious that I had a hard time telling where characters would be standing adjacent to each other. Like John Cena would be talking to Judy Greer and suddenly Tyler Mane would react to something. But the film language did not clue in the audience that Tyler Mane had been standing there able to react to what was said. The editing kept taking me out of the movie and I think it would make the film impossible for anybody to get invested into what is going on.
Playing With Fire fits my definition of what makes a truly bad movie. It is the poster child for the absence of good. There is nothing too good for one to discover here. There are talented people in-front and behind the camera, but none of it came together to create anything of substance. It fails as a movie made for children and it fails as a movie in general. It’s a waste of time, space, and resources that it should be considered a crime against nature that this was funded over any meaningful charity out there. There are forest fires plaguing California now as we speak, so please instead of buying a ticket to this, maybe donate the $10 to a charity helping those affected by forest fires. You’ll get a more meaningful experience out of doing that than seeing this movie. Hell, you’ll get a more meaningful experience by actually playing with fire than watching Playing With Fire.