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Firestarter: Rekindled

Stephen King's incendiary tale lights the torch for a brand-new adventure of Charlie McGee

*Firestarter: Rekindled
*Starring Marguerite Moreau, Malcolm McDowell, Dennis Hopper and Danny Nucci
*Based on the novel by Stephen King
*Directed by Robert Iscove
*Written by Philip Eisner
*SCI FI Channel
*Premieres Sunday, March 10, and Monday, March 11, at 9 p.m. ET/PT

By Kathie Huddleston

T en years after the events in Stephen King's Firestarter, the little girl who could start fires with her mind is all grown up and still running from the government agency that killed her parents and sought to use her for its own ends. However, Charlene "Charlie" McGee (Moreau) has begun to look for answers, and she's started to dig into the secret government experiment her parents were a part of, called Lot 6.

Our Pick: C-

Charlie is working at the same university that sponsored the experiment so she can dig through old files, hoping for answers. While doing research into the experiment, Charlie runs into Vincent Sforza (Nucci), an investigator for Systems Operations Corporation. Charlie tells him her name is Tommy and lies about why she's looking for information. Vincent believes he is trying to track down participants in a class-action lawsuit so they can be given checks. However, he is actually unwittingly doing the bidding of the same government organization that killed Charlie's parents. Unfortunately, Charlie is still at the top of its hit list.

When the two get hot and heavy, Charlie runs away, but the scorched room tells Vincent all he needs to know. Thinking he's doing her a favor, Vincent calls his office and tells them he's found Charlie McGee. Charlie packs up ready to run again. Vincent finds her and tries to convince her to meet with the people from the organization. He thinks they might be able to help her control her firestarting abilities.

However, when Vincent discovers that all the people he's found have been murdered, he realizes he's put Charlie in danger too. Vincent and Charlie find themselves on the run from the last person Charlie ever expected to see—John Rainbird (McDowell), the government assassin who betrayed her as a child and murdered her father. Rainbird has a surprise for Charlie. He has raised a group of gifted children with terrible powers who will make ideal government weapons. And worse than that, he wants Charlie to join him.

The heat is on—not!

SCI FI's two-part miniseries, Firestarter: Rekindled, is an unsatisfying second chapter to the Stephen King novel. While the exceptional cast works hard to make the material work, the script and pyrotechnics betray them far too often during the miniseries, and the over-extensive use of flashbacks slows down the action.

It's almost as though the mini's creators didn't trust the audience to remember the book or the previous film. Instead of moving forward with the story, significant amounts of the first two hours revisit old events that have been told better elsewhere. At one point there's even a flashback within the framework of the mini itself. It's sloppy storytelling and it's a shame.

While Firestarter may not have been King's best novel, there is an appealing central character and the story could have been told with relish. If the flashbacks were taken out, Firestarter: Rekindled would have made a fairly entertaining tale, with one exception. The big explosive conclusion offers a major flaw in the storytelling, ending the tale on a sour and disturbing note.

While there is plenty of fire onscreen, there's little actual heat, and the production values and special effects do little to liven up the story. Perhaps that's just the nature of the small screen. Still, other minis have looked more vibrant.

The true bright spot is the cast. Moreau, who also stars in Queen of the Damned, does a fine job as the troubled Charlie. She is given great support by McDowell and Hopper, who have nearly 200 films between them, even though it's the first time they've been onscreen together. They are wonderful actors, and Hopper has one of his best roles in years as Richardson, the man who can see the past, present and future all at the same time. McDowell should be a spectacular villain, but he seems to run into a flashback every time he gets something interesting to say.

After the breathtaking Dune miniseries, the SCI FI Channel had a lot of live up to. Firestarter: Rekindled could never have matched Dune for depth of storytelling, but it certainly has depth in the cast and could have been a whole lot of fun to watch. It's disappointing that a miniseries with these kinds of resources couldn't even manage to strike a spark. — Kathie

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Also in this issue: The Dark Crystal Special Edition DVD and In Service to the Dream




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