Pro wrestler John Cena grapples with kids in harmless family flick

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If you're a professional wrestler and you've crossed over into Hollywood, the rules state that at some point you must go toe-to-toe with the toughest foe of them all: children. 

Look at Hulk Hogan in "Mr. Nanny," the Rock in "The Tooth Fairy" or Dave Bautista in the upcoming "My Spy." Nothing makes a tough guy crumble or breaks him down to his essence quite like a child. 

Now comes John Cena in "Playing With Fire," where he stars as Jake Carson, an ultra-macho smokejumper — it's like a firefighter, but cooler, he's continually forced to explain — who meets his match when he's forced to care for three kids he rescues from a burning cabin. 

It's a paper-thin premise with sitcom execution that nevertheless earns some decent laughs out of its supporting cast, which includes Keegan-Michael Key and John Leguizamo. 

They're Carson's co-workers, and they all apparently live together inside their squad's firehouse. After teenager Brynn (Brianna Hildebrand, Negasonic Teenage Warhead in the "Deadpool" films) and her younger siblings Will (Christian Convery) and Zoey (Finley Rose Slater) are rescued in a blaze, they're brought into the firehouse until their parents can come get them. 

While there they cause minor high jinks, the kind that involve excess soap suds or toddlers shooting nail guns. You know, normal stuff. They also help the extremely uptight Carson flirt with Dr. Amy Hicks (Judy Greer), their chemistry on par with two sixth-graders holding hands. 

"Playing With Fire" is harmless fodder that doesn't deliver much but doesn't ask much either. It's the kind of fire that puts itself out. 

'Playing With Fire'

GRADE: C+

Rated PG: for rude humor, some suggestive material and mild peril 

Running time: 96 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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