The latest version of Stephen King’s “Firestarter” isn’t going to set the world, or the box office, for that matter, on fire.
Still, I’ve seen far worse than this serviceable-enough tale of a girl whose emotions bring on blazes.
The general concept is pretty much the same as the 1984 “Firestarter” that starred Drew Barrymore.
Here, Vicky (Sydney Lemmon, “Succession” – yes, that’s Jack Lemmon’s granddaughter) and Andy McGee (Zac Efron) meet in college in a bizarre experiment that involves a mind-altering substance. (The organization behind this, “The Shop,” will be recognizable to King fans, because it appears in multiple writings.)
They both end up with special abilities that allow them to read and tap into the minds of others. Their daughter Charlie (Ryan Keira Armstrong) was born with a special ability too: She starts fires with a power she sometimes finds difficult to control.
The little family lives completely off the grid, away from cell phones and computers. Still, creepy agent John Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes) is dispatched to capture Charlie, who ends up fleeing with one of her parents.
Efron is the star and the most engaging of the performers (there’s an abs-baring scene, not surprisingly – I wasn’t sure whether this was meant for comic effect.)
I liked the idea of trying to hide a child with special powers, especially in a digitized era where nearly everyone leaves some kind of trail.
The performances are OK. But the story is changed quite a bit from the earlier version, and not for the better: I found the finale jaw-droppingly ridiculous.
While I liked the book well enough, I wasn’t a great fan of the first film, and I found this almost as forgettable.
This isn’t part of the royalty in the King cinematic universe.
Rated: R for foul language, violence, and grisly images.
Running time: 94 minutes.
At Cinemark, Davenport; Regal, Moline; Palms 10, Muscatine; and streaming on Peacock.
Watch the trailer here.