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Film Review: ‘Firestarter’ Lacks Any Kind of Life of Spark

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

A horror remake doesn’t necessarily inspire assumptions of garbage anymore. We’ve seen many a reimagining of fright flick classics succeed, sometimes even improving upon the original. So, it’s fair to approach any new scary movie with an open mind. Then, something like Firestarter comes along and threatens to set the whole genre back. A hollow misfire from top to bottom, there’s nothing here to suggest why the Stephen King novel or original film had any appeal whatsoever. It’s completely generic, lacking if you’ll excuse the pun…any spark. You’ll almost wish it was worse, so that it would be even a little bit interesting. That is, if you actually see it, and I can’t discourage you enough from that poor decision.

Firestarter is misguided in that it thinks we’ll approach this with any inherent investment. Sometimes, a property has that in its favor, but this one doesn’t, so it’s essentially to make the audience care about the characters/story. That’s not the case here, so even with a 90 minute movie, annoyance and boredom starts to set in quickly. That doesn’t even take into account the reprehensible decision to make the murder of a cat into a parental bonding moment and teaching tool. Yuck.

(from left) Andy (Zac Efron) and Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) in Firestarter, directed by Keith Thomas. Photo Credit: Ken Woroner/Universal Pictures

For Andy McGee (Zac Efron) and Vicky McGee (Sydney Lemmon), one of the worst experiences of their lives led to love. Not just marriage, but also a daughter in Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong). At the same time, they each bear major effects from that past even. You see, after being experimented on by a secret government entity called The Shop, Andy and Vicky developed powers, which their daughter now possesses as well. Always cognizant of the danger lurking around the bend, they want Charlie to control and hide her powers. Then, The Shop comes for them, murdering Vicky, with a capture of Charlie on their mind.

On the run, Andy and Charlie must evade the dangerous Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes), acting on orders from The Shop’s Captain Hollister (Gloria Reuben). In the process, the father and daughter will grow closer, as the former starts to train the latter, knowing a showdown is inevitable, despite their hiding. Of course, she’ll eventually have to use them, because…well, what movie are we watching?

Universal Pictures

Zac Efron and Ryan Kiera Armstrong are given so little to work with, it’s no surprise they seem incredibly bored. Efron has done some good work lately, though this doesn’t rank anywhere among them. Armstrong is best in show, but then again, it’s damning with faint praise. Michael Greyeyes is utterly wasted, while Sydney Lemmon and Gloria Reuben have even less to do. Supporting players fare no better here, and they include John Beasley, Kurtwood Smith, and others.

Director Keith Thomas and writer Scott Teems appear to be punching a clock here, nothing more. There’s nothing inept about their work on Firestarter, but they just don’t seem to care about the material. If they don’t, how can we? By comparison, the original movie is a masterclass up and down the line, something few would be claiming otherwise.

Firestarter is one of the worst films of 2022 so far, not because it’s absolutely atrocious, but because it’s so hollow and soulless. It’s a shame, too, since there could have been at least a decent bit of genre entertainment here. That word doesn’t belong anywhere near Firestarter, however, as it doesn’t even come close to entertaining. If I never think about this film again, it’ll be too soon.

SCORE: ★1/2

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Written by Joey Magidson

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