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George At 

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When Stephen King’s novel FIRESTARTER came out in 1980, it was a clever, lightweight but fast-paced horror tale that served up a great read. In 1984, a big screen adaption hit theatres, with Drew Barrymore as Charlie, a young telepathic girl with the power to create fire. Lots of fire. It was kind of stupid, a little fun but hasn’t aged well.

So why remake the tale in 2022?

Blumhouse is a great horror studio, but for every “Conjuring” or “Invisible Man” created, they turn out some unnecessary stinkers, and this one qualifies as the latter.

Zac Efron goes lumberjack as Charlie’s dad Andy McGee, possessed with the ability to enter people’s minds and control them. Think “The force” but with a nasty tick and some post powers eye-bleeding that tends to limit use.

Sydney Lemmon stars as Charlie’s Mom, Vicky. She’s also got powers. She and Andy met during an experiment at one of those mysterious research institutes rampant in Robin Cook novels.

Vicky + Andy= Charlie, a much more powerful offspring.

The film seems so rushed at 94 minutes that it glazes over some of the best parts of King’s novel. How did the research institute get started, what are they doing and why is the government involved? What about the team of assassins they use to carry out hits on the subjects that get away?

All of that’s left on the editing room floor or out of the hack screenplay by Scott Teems, which seems more concerned with inserting catch phrases than constructing a story.

Chanting “Liar Liar Pants on Fire” right before you blow someone up looks great in a trailer, but lands like a thud when you toss it in a dramatic scene.

Efron, Lemmon and Ryan Kiera Armstrong as Charlie are all okay.

Armstrong is a huge improvement over Barrymore in the original, but that’s an incredibly low bar.

Michael Greteyes is good as Rainbird, the telepathic Native American assigned to terminate Charlie.

But it’s all so clumsily structured, there’s no tension or suspense and certainly no scares.

At one point, Charlie is separated from her father and he’s taken to the evil lair of the lab.

Charlie is there in about five minutes. On her own……walking….huh?

Sloppy, stupid and superfluous, FIRESTARTER never even creates a spark, let alone a blaze.

This smoldering turd gets a D-.

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