On Fire Parent Guide
Too scary for kids, and too predictable for adults, this movie doesn't light any sparks.
Parent Movie Review
Dave Laughlin (Peter Facinelli) is a regular guy with a lot on his plate. He’s proud of his son, Clay (Asher Angel), whose speed on the track could land him a college scholarship. He’s concerned about his wife, Sarah (Fiona Dourif), who is eight months pregnant and working full time to help pay the bills. He’s troubled by his dad, George (Lance Henriksen), who is cantankerous, frail, and sneaking cigarettes in secret, despite serious lung disease. Dave is also worried about money: he’s exceeded his credit at the local store, his dad’s medical costs are mounting up, and instead of seeing a mechanic, he’s repairing his truck with duct tape. Oh, and he doesn’t have insurance on the house….
Given the film’s title, it’s not difficult to predict the coming events. There are no surprises in either the plotline or individual character arcs. A massive wildfire makes huge gains in a short time, and soon this family is pushed to the extreme in a fight for survival. There are multiple scenes of towering flames, burning trees and buildings, falling sparks, and people running as fire surrounds them. Despite the danger, family members demonstrate love, loyalty, courage, determination, ingenuity, and a quiet but sincere religious faith. They also receive encouragement, support, and aid from first responders and this film gives credit to 9-1-1 operators, firefighters, and everyone else who devotes themselves to helping others.
The only real surprise in On Fire is the negative content. The film has a vaguely Christian vibe, so I was taken aback to hear a sexual expletive and ten scatological curses as well as scattered minor profanities and terms of deity. Violence in the film is all plot-related and there is no inter-personal aggression. However, the scenes of peril are very intense, and one person burns to death on screen, which could be disturbing to some viewers. The death of an important character might also trouble younger viewers.
I’m not certain who the target audience is for this movie. It’s too scary for kids and too predictable for adults. Those who are captivated by fire’s fearsome beauty might enjoy the well-shot conflagration scenes, but I find it unsettling to marvel at something that causes such terrible damage. If your teens are interested in natural disasters or climate issues, they might find this movie worth watching. If you’re trying to get your family on board with emergency planning for whatever natural disasters are possible in your area, it might be worth shelling out for tickets and popcorn. Personally, I’d wait for the film to stream and save the cash.
As I sat through this movie, I kept wondering if the film was topical or opportunistic. Is it trying to sound a warning bell about the dangers of fire, or exploit this year’s disastrous ones? After a summer which has seen devastating blazes in Hawaii and Greece, not to mention colossal Canadian fires that spread thick clouds of smoke to the USA and Europe, it is impossible to see fire as an occasional challenge in remote areas. Whether or not the countryside near you burns, the consequences of fire are inescapable. Unlike the Laughlins, we can’t all run, and there are no first responders who can rescue an entire planet. Reducing the number of forest fires and curbing their growth is a problem with no easy answers, but plenty of potential solutions. It’s up to us to see what each of us can do to save our one and only home.Directed by Peter Facinelli, Nick Lyon. Starring Peter Facinelli, Fiona Dourif, Asher Angel, Lance Henriksen, Ashlei Foushee. Running time: 80 minutes. Theatrical release September 29, 2023. Updated October 5, 2023
Watch the trailer for On Fire
Rating & Content Info
Why is On Fire rated PG-13? On Fire is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for action/peril, disturbing images, and some strong language
Violence: There are numerous scenes of peril as people run from a forest fire. There are frequent scenes of forest blazes and one involving an explosion. A woman is seen covered in flames and then dies on screen: her burned face is briefly visible. A vehicle swerves around an animal and crashes into a tree: characters are shown with injuries. A main character dies on screen. A main character suffers a serious (non-bloody) injury and repeatedly screams in pain.
Sexual Content: None noted.
Profanity: There are approximately 10 scatological curses and over a dozen terms of deity. The script contains a few minor profanities and a single sexual expletive.
Alcohol / Drug Use: An adult drinks beer. An adult obsesses about cigarettes and smokes one. A woman tries to give a burn victim Percocet but she can’t swallow it. She gives what is probably Percocet to a badly injured man.
Page last updated October 5, 2023
On Fire Parents' Guide
You can learn more about forest fires and recent large blazes through the following articles.
World Resources Institute: The Latest Data Confirms: Forest Fires Are Getting Worse
Global Forest Watch: Global Annual Tree Cover Loss from Fires
Scientific American: Wildfires Are Becoming Increasingly Devastating in Hawaii
The New York Times: How Canada’s Record Wildfires Got So Bad, So Fast
The New York Times: The Fires Here Are Unstoppable
Wikipedia: 2023 Greece Wildfires
What can be done to prevent or limit wildfires?
American Red Cross: How Can You Stop Wildfires from Starting?
The New York Times: These Changes Are Needed Amid Worsening Fires, Experts Say