NEW YORK (CNS) -- Like its 1984 predecessor helmed by Mark Lester, "Firestarter" (Universal), director Keith Thomas' screen version of Stephen King's sci-fi horror novel, features an abundance of pyrotechnic special effects.
Yet the film itself fails to ignite, due primarily to the routine feel of the proceedings and the lack of any human interest in the story it relates.
Amid the low-level boredom the movie inspires, viewers may have time to ask themselves, "Wait, when did Zac Efron get to be old enough to play someone's father? Wasn't it just yesterday that he was singing his way through high school?"
In fact, the mid-aughts were a long time ago, and so here's Efron playing dad Andy McKee. Together with his future wife, Vicky (Sydney Lemmon), college-age Andy participated in medical experiments that unexpectedly left both spouses endowed with paranormal gifts -- in Vicky's case telekinesis and in Andy's a form of mind control he calls "the push."
These abilities are mere bush-league stuff, however, in comparison to the powers wielded by the couple's young daughter, Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), most significantly the inflammatory capability from which the picture takes its title. Anxious to harness Charlie's potential, the same shadowy organization that tinkered with Andy and Vicky dispatches Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes), an assassin, to kidnap her.
As Charlie becomes a fugitive, the moral underpinnings of the downbeat fantasy in which she features are revealed to be generally compatible with Gospel values. Under Andy's tutelage, Charlie tries to control her capacity for destruction, using it -- for the most part -- only in self-defense. At a climactic moment she also extends forgiveness in lieu of exacting revenge.
Still, audience interest in Charlie's adventures is likely to be no better than lukewarm. And a few grisly interludes during which she barbecues characters both major and minor are graphic fare even for grown-ups.
The film contains gunplay and other violence with some gore, several gruesome images, a couple of uses each of profanity and milder oaths, about a half-dozen rough terms and occasional crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
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For all its pyrotechnic special effects, director Keith Thomas' screen version of Stephen King's sci-fi horror novel, previously adapted by Mark Lester in 1984, fails to ignite. Having inherited paranormal abilities from her parents (Zac Efron and Sydney Lemmon), who obtained their own gifts after being experimented on as college students, a young girl (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) is targeted by the same shadowy organization that tinkered with mom and dad and forced to become a fugitive to evade the assassin (Michael Greyeyes) the group has dispatched to kidnap her. The moral underpinnings of this downbeat fantasy comport with gospel values as the youthful heroine tries to control her destructive powers, using them, for the most part, only in self-defense, and eventually extends forgiveness in lieu of exacting revenge. But viewer interest in her story is likely to be no better than lukewarm while a few grisly interludes are graphic fare even for grown-ups. Gunplay and other violence with some gore, several gruesome images, a couple of uses each of profanity and milder oaths, about a half-dozen rough terms, occasional crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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"Firestarter" (Universal) -- Catholic News Service classification, A-III -- adults. Motion Picture Association rating, R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.