Combustible Celluloid
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With: Zac Efron, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Sydney Lemmon, Michael Greyeyes, Gloria Reuben, Kurtwood Smith, John Beasley, Tina Jung, Hannan Younis
Written by: Scott Teems, based on a novel by Stephen King
Directed by: Keith Thomas
MPAA Rating: R for violent content
Running Time: 94
Date: 05/13/2022

Firestarter (2022)

1 Star (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Thoroughly bland and uninspired, this cheap-looking second adaptation of Stephen King's 1980 novel goes through the motions, failing to deliver any thrills or scares, and feeling utterly pointless.

Vicky (Sydney Lemmon) and Andy McGee (Zac Efron) once participated in a clinical trial for a mysterious drug and came away with strange powers; Vicky won't use hers, but Andy has "the push" that can create suggestions in people's minds, even though using it comes with a price. Their child, Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), was born with the power to create fire.

As she gets older, the power becomes harder to control. She blows out a bathroom stall at school and accidentally sets her mother on fire. Once aware of Charlie's powers, Captain Hollister (Gloria Reuben) — head of a shady organization having to do with the experiments — sends in a bounty hunter named Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes) to capture Charlie and bring her in. So Andy and Charlie go on the run, as she attempts to learn and control her powers. But a showdown is inevitable.

From its twitchy, "decaying video" opening titles to its bleary, blobby digital gore FX, everything about Firestarter is numbingly familiar. The original 1984 movie (starring Drew Barrymore and George C. Scott) isn't exactly remembered as a high point of King adaptations, and it should have been ripe for reinterpretation. Plus director Keith Thomas, whose spookily atmospheric The Vigil relied on strong character development and strange storytelling, was a great choice for the job. What could have happened is anyone's guess.

Perhaps too many corners were cut. Attempts to flesh out the characters simply come across as lazy exposition (it was written by Scott Teems, whose Halloween Kills has the same problem), and the clunky camerawork seems designed to hide the sub-par FX.

On the plus side, the movie features a fun music score by none other than John Carpenter, his son Cody Carpenter, and collaborator Daniel A. Davies, even if the music is simply draped over the scenes with little rhyme or reason. And, star Efron — whose previous performances can be kindly described as "vacant" — has finally learned to fit in, appearing to actually interact with others. But those two things aside, Firestarter is far too soggy to make any kind of spark.

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