Chloe Moretz, left, and Julianne Moore star in the remake of the Stephen King classic 'Carrie.'(Photo: Michael Gibson, Sony Pictures)
(USATODAY.com) - Rather than offering new blood, Carrie is a purely cosmetic revamp.
There's nothing inventive in the retelling of this American horror story based on Stephen King's best-selling 1974 novel.
If director Kimberly Peirce had brought a measure of the intriguing sensibility she demonstrated in 1999's Boys Don't Cry, this reboot (** out of four; rated R; opens Friday nationwide) might have been worth seeing. But Peirce's version lacks the immediacy of Brian De Palma's original. The result feels like a pale imitation.
The story centers on Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz), a bullied teen misfit who wreaks vengeance on her high school classmates.
In repurposing it, Peirce could have gone for all-out, over-the-top camp. Or she could have made a more serious film closer to King's original text about a lonely outcast tormented by her holy roller mother and mistreated by her peers.
Instead, Peirce spends too much time on an entitled, one-note Queen Bee (Portia Doubleday) who fires f-bombs at teachers, humiliates Carrie and posts a video of the degradation, and plots more malicious deeds.
Carrie is an intriguingly woebegone character and the focus should have stayed on her.
Painfully shy and endlessly mocked - even by one of her teachers for her selection of poetry - Carrie has no refuge. At home her domineering, religious zealot mom (Julianne Moore) alternates between babying Carrie and believing that the devil has overtaken her for wearing a sleeveless dress. When Carrie discovers she has telekinetic powers, the audience is rooting for her.
The audience is still on her side when she uses the powers to mildly punish a bratty kid who calls her crazy and to keep her mom from preventing her from going out. But then Carrie goes too far.
When she wields her telekinesis for vengeful destruction - during a climactic scene at the prom that anyone who has seen the 1976 De Palma version with Sissy Spacek will never forget - the hell she unleashes is excessive. But in this version it's more tedious than terrifying.
Perhaps it's because we've seen so much cinematic gore in the 37 years since the original hit screens. That's all the more reason why this film should have taken a different tack. It's not enough to merely update the era and add smartphones into the mix. Peirce should have taken either a more comic tone (as in Moretz's Kick-Ass movies) or a more somber one, exploring social isolation and assessing the damaging influences of school bullies and a mother who locks her daughter in a closet to repent.
Moretz and Moore do their best with the one-dimensional material, but they deserve better.
The movie also suffers from not knowing when to end. The havoc Carrie unleashes grows numbing as it drags on.
"You can only push someone so far before they break," sums up a classmate.
If only those pushing the buttons on this movie had gone farther and provided audiences with something more than a bland retread.