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Movie Review: 'Firestarter' Remake Flames Out

by Sean Patrick 2 months ago in movie
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Boringly competent remake lacks the unintentional comedy of the original.

The remake of Firestarter is the result of what I call, I.P mining. The idea is to take a relatively memorable property from the past, attach a young movie star, and rake in the profits. That’s the goal anyway. Whether the re-makers of Firestarter will profit from their I.P mining is something only time and box office will tell. What I can tell you about the makers of Firestarter 2022 is that their movie recycling is more akin to composting. It stinks.

Firestarter 2022 stars Ryan Kiera Armstrong as Charlie, a child with dangerous powers. Charlie can move things with her mind. She can read people's minds. Most dangerously, Charlie has pyro-kinesis which means she can create fire with her mind. Charlie got her powers from her parents. As college students, Andy (Zac Efron) and Victoria (Sidney Lemmon) participated in a government sponsored experiment. The experiment gave both Andy and Victoria a powerful form of E.S.P.

Running from the Government

Naturally, the government doesn’t want Charlie's growing fire power running around unchecked. Less benevolently, the government, represented by Captain Hollister (Gloria Reuben), wants to exploit Charlie’s powers. As she gets older, Charlie will become more and more powerful. In fact, according to the exposition scientist, played by Kurtwood Smith, she could become the ultimate weapon, a human nuclear blast. Poor Charlie just wants to go to school and make friends. Instead, she and her parents are forced to fight for their lives.

If 1984’s Firestarter is remembered at all, it’s for the comically incongruous sight of adorable 8 year old Drew Barrymore melting men’s faces. That and the unintentional racism. The very anglo-saxon George C. Scott co-starred in 1984’s Firestarter as a Native American bounty hunter named Rainbird. Scott has a ponytail and wears Native American inspired clothing. There is a strong cringe energy to the dated racial aspect of Firestarter '84 that you can't help but shake your head and laugh at.

Can't Help But Laugh at Firestarter '84

It's blatantly offensive that Scott is playing a Native American character. And yet, there is a comic charge to that idea as well. Add to that Scott's deeply committed performance and you have a vital comic energy coming from a movie that was not made as a comedy. It's strangely thrilling to watch Scott menace poor Drew Barrymore. She's ludicrously adorable and he's a cringe inducing monster and together they have shockingly good anti-chemistry.

Firestarter 2022 lacks any unintended thrills. This is unfortunate as the movie doesn’t have many intentional thrills either. Zac Efron does show off his comically toned physique, seriously he’s ridiculous. Beyond his ludicrous number of abs sadly, there isn't much of a character. As a father, Andy mostly tells his daughter to hide or to use her powers. We never get a sense of their bond beyond merely being an unconvincing father and daughter.

Firestarter 2022 is Boringly Competent

In film construction, Firestarter 2022 is dreadfully competent. The direction and special effects are fine. I have no criticism of the technical aspects of Firestarter 2022. I will say that Director Keith Thomas fared far better behind the camera on his feature debut, The Vigil in 2019, read my review of that terrific horror movie here. Sadly, it appears from the evidence of Firestarter that a much larger budget and a movie star appear to have sapped his creativity. Thomas delivers a competent thriller in Firestarter, but one that is devoid of the kind of invention that made The Vigil such a great debut.

It’s strange to think that I prefer the goofball, blatantly offensive, original Firestarter but I do. It’s an ironic appreciation, but I did have a great time watching that movie. I felt no such joy watching Firestarter 2022. Where the original earned derisive giggles, Firestarter 2022 earned the desire for the ending to arrive sooner.

Watch this one instead

Firestarter 2022 debuted in theaters and on the Peacock streaming service on Friday, May 13th, 2022.

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About the author

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for Everyone's a Critic Movie Review Podcast. I am a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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