The Problem with Firestarter (2022)
We’re introduced to Adam and Sydney Lemmon. They’ve just returned home from the hospital with their newborn daughter Charlene (Charlie). Sydney no sooner lays Charlie down to rest and the bassinet bursts into flames. Not to worry, though. It’s just Adam’s nightmare. Well, both a nightmare and a flashback memory. This confusing scene is just the beginning of problems for this snoozefest of a film.
It turns out Adam and Sydney were guinea pigs in DSI lab’s government experiments to expand ESP in their subjects. Now that Charlie is coming of age (11 years) DSI is coming for her. They send former DSI agent Rainbird to collect her. He kills Sydney and now Adam and Charlie are on the run.
Blumhouse productions acquired the rights to “Firestarter” in 2017 but production on the remake of the 1984 classic did not start until 2021. With all that down time, you’d think Scott Teems (Halloween Kills, 2021) would have plenty of time to deliver an amazing script. Sadly, that was not the case.
“Firestarter (2022)” feels like a 30-minute TV episode padded out to 90 minutes. Every scene is composed of two or three sentences from two or three characters followed by 30 seconds of drawn-out reaction shots. The performances are fine. Zac Efron is serviceable as father Adam McGee. Sydney Lemmon is underutilized as the mother. And Ryan Kierra Armstrong is a delight as the young Charlie McGee.
Comparisons to the 1984 original are inevitable (which itself played out like a made-for-TV movie). It’s hard for anyone to match Drew Barrymore’s cuteness factor at any age. Young Ryan Keirra Armstrong does well with what she’s given. This is an unfortunate role for Zac Efron whose Adam McGee endures bloody eyes instead of 1984’s David Keith’s bloody noses.
Other problems abound. It’s not clear who the protagonist is. It seems like the parents are the lead figures. Once the mother is killed, it’s the father and daughter who are on the run – making it a buddy film. And ultimately Charlie is on her own, as the hero must go on alone.
In school, Charlie is called “weird” by her classmates, but we never really are shown why she’s weird. Charlie is shown dissecting a frog alone and when she has trouble, her teacher tells her she could see dissections it on the internet. (So, why was she dissecting a frog in the first place?)
When Charlie determines to return to the evil DSI lair, she uses her powers to induce some boys to give her their bikes. She asks them for directions to “the coast.” And one minute later, she arrives at DSI headquarters. So… the child who doesn’t know east from west had no trouble riding her bicycle to the exact location of her father’s captors.
The Adam character vacillates between being a sympathetic soul to taking advantage of unsuspecting folks. He first tells Charlie not to use her powers to hurt anyone, then teaches her to put a cat out of its misery when she injures it. And later he appears to martyr himself to save Charlie from DSI – but simultaneously instructs her to “burn it all down.” It’s not clear who this guy is.
It’s hard to identify one problem with “Firestarter (2022)” as it’s a complete mess from opening to closing. With a lackluster script, uninspired direction, and formulaic camera work, there is no reason to spend time or money on this film.