Review: FIRESTARTER Fizzles
A family on the run, a little girl with immense powers she doesn’t understand and can barely control, and an evil covert organization desperate to harness the girl’s power for their own good. This is Firestarter, a new adaptation of the Stephen King classic from the director of The Vigil, Keith Thomas. This version trades some of the more explosive – pun intended – elements of the 1984 film for pathos, which saps a lot of the energy out of the story, and left this viewer wondering why he just wasn’t feeling anything by the end.
Thomas’s new take on Firestarter is something of a frustrating experience. Obviously a lower budget affair than it’s 1984 predecessor, this version seems to have all of the elements of a solid indie horror film, but it never quite comes together. It’s not often wise to compare two versions of the same story since both sets of filmmakers are working with different budgets, contemporary cultures, and performers, but it’s hard to avoid in this case where Mark L. Lester’s vision of the story is so clearly superior in every way.
Leading the film is Zac Efron as Andy McGee, a single dad to Ryan Kiera Armstrong’s Charlie, the little girl with the big powers. If there is a bright spot in this Firestarter, it’s Efron, who really puts in the work and has proven himself to be more than just a pretty face over the course of his last few films. As a father desperate to keep his child safe, a role played with furious intensity by David Keith in the original, Efron’s performance is rock solid but swaps out fury for emotion, a choice that isn’t bad, but just feels out of place with the film. Aging Charlie up from a little kid in ’84 to a tween here takes away some of the vulnerability that made Drew Barrymore’s performance compelling. Armstrong does well with what she’s given, but it’s a different film, for sure.
Everything about this new Firestarter feels compromised. It’s just hollow where it should be bursting at the seams with action and emotion. Everyone apart from Efron seems to be going through the motions, even a brief scene-stealing appearance from Kurtwood Smith can’t manage to kick this into high gear. And when it ends it should be a cathartic experience, a release from the tension that should’ve been building all along. But the only feeling I was left with once the credits rolled was an overwhelming desire to revisit the earlier film. Sadly, Firestarter barely manages a spark when it should be an inferno.
- Keith Thomas
- Scott Teems
- Stephen King
- Zac Efron
- Ryan Kiera Armstrong
- Gloria Reuben