The rich comedic tradition of beefcakes taking care of kids

The new movie Playing with Fire may not seem like a particularly distinguished comedy, but in its way, it’s part of a rich, albeit very specific, tradition. Just as bodybuilder-turned-movie-star Arnold Schwarzenegger unofficially passed his tough-guy torch to wrestler-turned-movie-star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, John Cena has lined up behind The Rock to make the wrestling-to-film transition. Part of that process, it seems, is doing some funny babysitting.

Arnold did it in Kindergarten Cop, wringing comedy from posing as a teacher for a bunch of unruly five-year-olds. Following in his footsteps, Johnson did it in The Game Plan (in which a tough football player discovers he has a daughter), and Johnson’s estranged Fast & Furious costar Vin Diesel did it in The Pacifier (in which a tough soldier must protect and care for a group of siblings). Now Cena’s star status is conferred by doing the same in Playing with Fire, where he plays a smoke-jumping firefighter who must spend a weekend in charge of three children he rescued from a forest blaze. The movie is even directed by Andy Fickman, who made The Game Plan.

In some ways, the tough-guy-as-babysitter comedy is an even purer vehicle than a custom-designed action movie, especially in 2019. To generate the expected automatic laugh from a particular star faced with a bunch of screaming kids, the star in question must be a known quantity in his own right, and a very specific type at that. (It’s never her own right, because even today, female stars are expected to have a more natural nurturing side.) Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth may be widely seen as Captain America and Thor, for instance, but their adventures are special-effects-driven fantasies, not pure action movies in the Arnold mode. Matt Damon’s best-known character may be an action hero of sorts, but a scene with him and a kid doesn’t automatically register as Jason Bourne looking unexpectedly sensitive.

On that level, there’s something strange about Cena performing this shtick: He’s not really an action star, unless you count his ongoing wrestling gigs. Cena did attempt to make the jump into rugged, unstoppable ’80s-style action heroics with a pair of low-rent vehicles over a decade ago. The Marine and 12 Rounds, both little-seen and little-loved, failed to launch Cena into Dwayne Johnson’s orbit (though to be fair, Johnson had plenty of failed vehicles before he became one of the biggest movie stars in

Source:: The Week – Entertainment

      

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