From Arnold Schwarzenegger to Dwayne Johnson, action stars who have wanted to take a break from intense action movies have frequently turned to family-friendly comedies, which allows them to reach a more mainstream audience. But starring with a child co-star a third your age and size means you’ll have to wear a tutu or dance like a doofus and maybe fall in something slimy. Wrestler-turned-action-star John Cena is the latest to make this pivot with “Playing With Fire,” opening this weekend. Here are some other examples of this genre of tough guys babysitting kids.
“Three Men and a Baby” (1987) – Tom Selleck
One of the first movies of this genre, “Three Men and a Baby” was a massive box office success in 1987, pulling in $167 million domestically. Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg star in the comedy about three eligible bachelors who wind up in over their heads caring for a baby. The film is directed by Leonard Nimoy and is a remake of a French film. It’s far more grounded and realistic than how zany and action-heavy the genre would become.
“Kindergarten Cop” (1990) – Arnold Schwarzenegger
“Kindergarten Cop” wasn’t the first (or the last) goofy comedy Arnold Schwarzenegger would make, but in this one, he berates at a classroom full of toddlers, plays with a ferret and teaches kids the basics about human anatomy. His line reading of “It’s not a tumor!” is an underrated contender for one of his most memorable movie quotes. Schwarzenegger would also soon after this star in the manic holiday comedy “Jingle All the Way.”
“Mr. Nanny” (1993) – Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan’s acting career didn’t exactly take off, but 1993’s “Mr. Nanny” would start a string of film and TV appearances that the wrestling legend did alongside other WWF specials throughout the ’90s. This film combines some “Home Alone” shenanigans as Hogan looks after kids as they repeatedly booby trap the house with tripwires or magnets in an attempt to get him to leave, even nearly electrocuting him with one prank.
“Cop and a Half” (1993) – Burt Reynolds
The Henry Winkler-directed film starred Burt Reynolds in a buddy comedy where the star is actually an 8-year-old boy played by Norman D. Golden II. He wants to learn to be a cop and cuts a deal to go on a ride-along after he’s a witness to a crime. Reynolds drives him around as he helps to foil bad guys by kicking them in the groin or throwing soccer balls and Twinkies.
“The Pacifier” (2005) – Vin Diesel
Coming off the box office bomb “The Chronicles of Riddick” after leaving the “Fast & Furious” franchise, Vin Diesel then turned to the Disney movie “The Pacifier,” where he got stuck changing poopy diapers and driving a minivan. Instead of strapping on ammo and guns, there’s a scene of him gearing up with juice boxes and two child carriers on his front and back.
“Are We There Yet?” (2005) – Ice Cube
Even one of the hardest rappers of all time found himself looking after a pair of bratty kids in this 2005 comedy. Ice Cube goes on a road trip with two kids in order to impress their mom, who he’s dating, only to discover that they torture every man she brings home. Cube endures a yellow paint scuff and vomit all over his car before eventually leaping from a moving train and getting into a fight with a reindeer.
“The Game Plan” (2007) – The Rock
In “The Game Plan,” Dwayne Johnson plays a football MVP who learns he has a young daughter (Madison Pettis) who quickly dominates his life, dressing his bulldog in a tutu and bedazzling his Super Bowl game ball. In one scene, Johnson has to film a commercial with a high-pitched lisp after he’s allergic to the cinnamon in his daughter’s cookies. If you think he looks silly here, The Rock would don a pair of wings and hockey pads to star in “Tooth Fairy” three years later.
“The Spy Next Door” (2010) – Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan was in his 50s when he made “The Spy Next Door,” so his days of running up walls were over and replaced with using kid-friendly spy gadgets to cook breakfast, take out the trash or help a little girl get into her pajamas. He even attacks Russian mobsters with frying pans and the extendable dishwashing hose on the sink.
“Playing With Fire” (2019) – John Cena
John Cena plays an elite firefighter who meets his match when he has to care for a family of three kids after he rescues them from a burning building. Of course, the kids make a mess of the station and launch flare guns or careen around the room with a firehouse, which leads to a lot of Cena falling on his back and furrowing his brow in frustration.
“My Spy” (2020) – Dave Bautista
This Dave Bautista comedy got punted to early 2020 after it was supposed to open this past summer. Bautista stars as a bumbling CIA agent who gets his cover blown by a 9-year-old girl (Chloe Coleman) and is forced to teach her how she can be a spy. This involves lessons to look away from explosions, games of dodge ball, tripping snot-nosed punks on an ice rink and Bautista frantically rescuing a pet fish.