FILM REVIEW: Not much heat from “Firestarter” movie

Published 12:16 am Saturday, May 14, 2022

“Firestarter”

Universal Pictures

Directed by Keith Thomas

Starring Zac Efron, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Sydney Lemmon, Gloria Reuben, John Beasley and Michael Greyeyes

Rated R

1 1/2 Stars

I don’t remember much about the original “Firestarter” movie other than a vague notion that Drew Barrymore was pretty good in the central role when you consider how young she was.

Still, the movie didn’t exactly set the box office on fire, and author Stephen King went out of his way to call the film one of the worst adaptations of his work so far.

All which begs the question — why did Universal Studios decide to remake this movie?

After seeing the movie, I’m not sure that I can shed much light on that decision. It’s still a mediocre thriller with a simple story and not-very-impressive special effects. The acting is fine, but there’s nothing here that makes the new “Firestarter” into a must-see movie, in theaters now or streaming at home in a month or so.

The story focuses on a young family that’s trying to stay under the radar because they don’t want people to know that they have low-key superpowers. Dad (Zac Efron) has the ability to push into people’s minds and make them do what he commands. Mom (Sydney Lemmon) can move things with her mind, and daughter Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) has the ability to set everything on fire whenever she gets angry.

Charlie gets angry a lot, although she’s been working with her father to keep her emotions in check. That’s no easy task for a pubescent girl, especially when a shadowy government agency boss (Gloria Reuban) sends an assassin (Michael Greyeyes) to capture the family.

As you might guess, things are about to get very hot.

All of this is pretty standard stuff, in a don’t poke the bear cautionary story sort of way. There’s nothing special going on in the story, although it’s not the type of film that requires a unique perspective on the material.

By that baseline standard, the screenplay delivers what is required. We get some basic character moments strung out between the fireballs but not much more.

The acting is fine. Following the example set in the first film, Ryan Kiera Armstrong turns in a rather convincing performance as the main role.

Zac Efron is also quite good, although he’s not asked to do much more than play a father figure with 6-pack abs. The rest of the cast is populated with character actors who turn in solid performances.

All of which makes “Firestarter” into an OK thriller where nothing really goes wrong. That’s not the same thing as having everything mesh into one exciting whole. This isn’t a movie that I disliked, nor was I bored, but even now as I write this a few hours after seeing the movie, I struggle to remember much about the movie.

“Firestarter” is just one of those mediocre thrillers that will work as mindless entertainment one afternoon when you’re bored, but there’s nothing here that’s special. Certainly nothing that would explain why somebody felt the need to remake the 1984 movie.

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Orange Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at sean@seanthemovieguy.com.