Parents' Guide to

Firestarter (1984)

By Tom Cassidy, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Stephen King adaptation has fiery deaths, miscast character.

Movie R 1984 114 minutes
Firestarter 1984 movie poster

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At the heart of any Stephen King novel, amid the supernatural setting, is a gentler tale of people trying to make their way through a hard time in their lives. In 1984's Firestarter, a father is trying his hardest to raise and protect his daughter. While that's a tough enough task, these two also happen to have psychic powers and are being pursued by a shadowy government agency. A young Barrymore plays the troubled Charlie, whose character carries her turmoil with her in an accomplished physical performance. Even more physically accomplished are the stunt team, who are set on fire throughout the movie in a daring practice that CGI has since replaced. This lends extra weight to the story -- it's easier to believe a girl has the power to control fire when you're seeing a stream of flailing, flaming people.

The burning and explosions are joined by some fights and gunfire, handled bluntly by director Mark L. Lester, who followed this movie with another father/daughter blow-em-up, Commando. While the direction is dry and non-showy, there's enough room for emotional moments to seep through and elevate the movie. The idea of a person having to live with something that makes them different is a broad metaphor that can be applied to Firestarter, letting it resonate with a varied base of viewers.

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