Is This Fire Burning In The Right Way?

Playing with Fire Poster

 

In the age of modern movie goers, no idea is to silly, wacky, or ridiculous to warrant a trial on the big or small screen.  With celebrities jumping all over the place, one never knows what role they will dive into next.  Today, one of the popular stars and master of theatrics (at least in terms of sporting events) is diving back into the kiddy pool in hopes to bring an early season comedy.  Can Mr.  John Cena  make the latest kid flick be awesome or is it going to be lost to the cascade of cinema pieces this weekend. Robbie K back in for another review as we check out.

 

Movie: Playing With Fire (2019)

 

Director:

Andy Fickman

Writers:

Dan EwenMatt Lieberman

Stars:

Judy GreerKeegan-Michael KeyJohn Cena

 

LIKES:

 

  • Funny
  • Fast Paced
  • Good Writing
  • Lots of Comedy Styles
  • Cute/Adorable
  • Touching

 

DISIKES:

 

  • Predictable
  • Seems A Bit Rushed
  • Imbalance Of Styles
  • The Trailers Have Touched A Lot

 

SUMMARY:

 

Playing with fire brings the heat in terms of just being a fun, family geared movie that is charming on many levels.  The funny nature of the film is not the most original, but brings a happy energy to the theater and makes it enjoyable to watch.  Throw in lots of comedy styles like slapstick, misquotes, and bathroom humor, well you get a concoction that is going to entertain the young and young at heart.  Fortunately for those with short attention spans, the film does not smolder too long, but rather unleashes the torrent in a fast-paced tale that should keep most engaged in the short run time, so again great for the kids.  While not the most unique writing, this reviewer enjoyed the writing of this family film and felt that it balanced cute and touching moments in that same wrapping that is shiny to watch.  Playing With Fire is going to burn its way to the heart of many, utilizing those perfect angles, piano lead songs, and cliché writing to really warm the core of its viewers.  Is it cheesy?  Absolutely!  Yet, it works when looking at the cute package the film as a whole is.

 

Despite all this though, here are some of the things I usually dock in terms of points.  One, the movie is predictable, which I’m guessing most of you predicted.  Playing With Fire is not really into pulling punches, and from start to finish you know where the film is heading, with my only hopes of a comedic joke sending me crunched over laughing so hard.  As I said earlier, the film moves at a brisk pace, which while entertaining also cost the movie some time on telling a fleshed-out story.  Cena and squad’s stories could have had a lot more time to push characters further, give them some layers, and still mix with the cute atmosphere.  I think it’s going to appease most audience members, but given that other kids movies have found the balance of pace and telling, I feel this movie could have tried a little harder.  Something else imbalanced is the styles of comedy, or perhaps more so the audience this movie will appeal to.  Playing With Fire is all about families with young kids, so don’t expect those looking for a raunchy comedy or clever comedy to potentially love this film.  Finally, the biggest thing I’m always worried about is trailers ruining a movie, and Playing With Fire has burned the avenue down with how much has been shown in the numerous trailers.  If you’ve seen the trailers repetitively, as I have, then you’ll have many of the funny moments and story elements ingrained in your brain, which means less bang for the buck and even fewer surprises in this already surprise limited movie.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            If you’ve seen the trailers, you can pretty much expect what the trailers promised for this film.  Playing With Fire is all about being a cute, straightforward film that will tickle the fancy of the young and young at heart.  Within its family friendly environment comes writing that feels like a 90s sitcom/drama, filled with diverse comedy styles and touching moments to get the warmth of the holidays in. While this is all expected though, for movie scoring it would have been nice if the film could have burst out of the straight track and twisted into something better.  It’s predictably and rushed storytelling sort of cheated me out of a complete picture, while the lack of more adult based humor will potentially bore others who have outgrown the family friendly humor.  Finally, the fact this movie falls victim to trailer syndrome will further dilute the experience.  This film is worth a trip for the families, but in terms of special effects and overall picture, this could have done well on straight to cable release. 

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy/Family:  7.0

Movie Overall:  5.0

Book To Movie: Where Did The Rest Of The Cast And Story Go?

Where'd You Go, Bernadette Poster

 

Another day, another time to review movies and weeks two of the 5 movie reviews a week continues.  Hi Robbie K here, and today we will be looking at yet another book turned movie, as pop culture icons and interesting concepts are interpreted for the silver screen.  Now you know the usual sayings, movie versions are often not as good as the literature counterparts, but that does not mean it’s not worth a chance to see the visual interpretation unfold.  Well, once again yours truly is back in the artificially lit trenches to determine if this is a movie worth your time.  Let’s get started:

 

Movie: Where’d you Go Bernadette (2019)

 

Director:

Richard Linklater

Writers:

Richard Linklater (screenplay by), Holly Gent (screenplay by)  | 2 more credits »

Stars:

Cate BlanchettJudy GreerKristen Wiig

 

 

LIKES:

  • Good Acting
  • Nice Portrayal Of Mental Illness
  • Cute
  • Good Morals
  • Fairly Good Pace
  • Cyndi Lauper Tribute

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • A Little Melodramatic
  • Dryer Comedy
  • Some rather useless characters/Plots
  • A Little More Connecting
  • No Mystery Whatsoever
  • The Abrupt End

 

Summary:

 

The movie in a way feels much like a book performance or big budget play.  Blanchett in particular does a lot of heavy lifting with the grandiose character of Bernadette and is truly the person to captivate you in this story.  Sure the other supporting actors hit their marks, the confused husband of Billy Crudup, the controlling neighbor played by Kristen Wiignot too much from the Bridesmaid character, and wise friendship of Laurence Fishburneare all good, with really the daughter Becky being the next outstanding performance of the bunch (Troian Bellisario) who is integrated into the films.  Yet, it’s really the focus on Cate managing to portray that storm that is mental illness that impressed this writer, not only in physical mannerisms, but even the pressured speech, the inconsistency, and more so the denial of handling the problems that gave me respect for the role.  Past the pillar of performances, the movie is a cute film that captures the spirit of the book (or what I have read of it) taking good morals about creativity, finding one self, love, and understanding and managing to smoosh it together into a rather audience friendly form that groups can enjoy.  It’s pace is okay, I think perfect for the key audience members, to really get the snapshots of Bernadette’s journey without being dragged into the detailed pits of despair that sometimes are seen in these profile movies.  Yet it is missing something that some book movies achieve so well.  And of course, who would not like to see some fun tributes and use of icon legend Cyndi Lauper come into play that’s a hoot right?

 

While the portrayals and the performances are nice though there is something about this movie that is a little too bookish for me. I love reading, but books give you that ability to spread the journey across time while movies are not quite that luxury and this movie emphasizes the point for me.  The melodramatic components of this film make for a great performance, but overshadow a lot of other features of this film, almost taking the Lifetime approach without the pregnancy, murder, or adultery.  For a comedy, the movie did not quite have the balance of laughs I know Cate can pull off, relying a little too much on the dryer sarcasm than anything else, which I think only hits a finite audience.  Yet the things about this book that get me are more so the inclusion of the other characters.  For a movie about essentially about reconnecting, to the world, the inclusion of the cast is not as good as I expected.  Despite decent performances, characters are limited to small bouts of banter with the main character, or merely just making appearances in shots in a hasty attempt to concise the healing process.  Other plot points including rivalries, cleaning up her mistakes, and even a particular gossip rival are swept to the sidelines to keep the focus on the journey to beautiful shots galore of the Antarctic peninsula. As such, I would have liked better connections than what I got.  However, for a title and trailer that suggest mystery, this tale has practically no mystery whatsoever.  In an attempt to either parody or touch Gone Girl, Bernadette’s journey offers no real challenge to the audience or the characters about where the titular character has gone.  You know every step of the journey and thus that aspect is essentially lost to the attempts to do the character connection mentioned earlier.  Finally, the ending, when all is said and done, and the “mystery” is concluding, the film sort of truncates the potential for an emotionally powerful finish and leaves you with a montage that while interesting is not the ending I had expected.  If this is how the book does, I might have taken another 15 minutes of creative liberty to give a fitting end, but hey that’s just me.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Truth be told, this movie is a stunning example of how performances can sometimes do a lot of heavy lifting and while not my favorite role, Cate really leads the charge in this near one woman show.  The movie again feels like a book, managing to keep a finger on the pulse of reality/book, and fill it with the cute, heartwarming, moral-filled lessons we love.  Yet, the flair for the dramatic components, alongside a disjointed attempt at deep character connections/development just did not have that story push I love.  Too much happening in too short of a time and a mystery that was ironically missing, the visual tribute to Bernadette’s story is not one of the best adaptations for most audiences looking for this type of movie.  As such, I think this movie is reserved to theater visits for a small few, and would have been better on the Lifetime channel, or OWN as a made for TV movie.  My scores for this film are:

 

Comedy/Drama/Mystery: 6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0