Before watching this new take on one of Stephen King’s weaker novels, I was walking around the house singing Prodigy’s “Firestarter” to my dog, with redone lyrics (“Noomi’s a Firestarter … a stinky Firestarter.”) She wasn’t amused, but I was.

That’s about all the fun I got out of this mess.

I used to consume King novels like Oreos covered in vanilla ice cream and beer back in the day. (Hey, I was a teen, and looking back, eating like I was pregnant.) When I read Firestarter, I was underwhelmed. When I saw Gertie from E.T. play the Firestarter in a movie, I was also underwhelmed. And now, after seeing Ryan Kiera Armstrong step into the role, with Zac Efron playing her bleeding-eyed father, I am really, really underwhelmed.

This film looks cheap and features what will surely be among the year’s worst acting and dialogue. Nothing flows in this movie, which basically has two or three set pieces stitched together with a clumsy narrative. For modern American cinema at its worst, look no further than every scene that Gloria Reuben, as some sort of law-enforcement whatever, spends with Efron. Unintentional laughter abounds with their every line recitation.

Too much of the movie is spent on some farm after a cranky drinker picks up the Firestarter and her dad, and inexplicably brings them home for supper. It turns out he has an invalid wife, and he’s really pissed off when young Firestarter hilariously falls through a screen window in a hidden room and then has an off-screen chat with the lady. Hey, farm guy: If you really don’t want people conversing with your wife, how about you don’t bring them home for supper? Maybe keep people out of the house?

The original story didn’t have much to build upon … a little girl can start fires with her face. Who cares? Trust me, you won’t.

Firestarter is now playing at theaters across the valley, and streaming on Peacock.

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