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New 'Carrie' is longer, not better

NBC lavishes three hours of prime time on a new production of the Stephen King classic but adds nothing worthwhile to the story.

By ERIC DEGGANS, Times TV Critic

© St. Petersburg Times
published November 4, 2002

Here's the problem with most TV and movie adaptations of horror master Stephen King's novels: Often the horror comes from what goes on inside the characters' heads.

The slow possession of John Torrance by the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. Billy Halleck's alarming weight loss thanks to a Gypsy curse in Thinner.

So when I heard NBC was tackling a three-hour remake of Brian De Palma's reasonably entertaining film of King's first -- some say best -- blockbuster book, Carrie, I dared to hope.

After all, Carrie's tale of an alienated teen who turns her telekinetic powers loose after the ultimate high school embarrassment could echo real-life events at Columbine, Jonesboro and elsewhere. In the age of Eminem and Jackass, the possibilities seem endless.

Unfortunately, NBC has joined the list of those who fell short.

The network did one thing right: Casting Angela Bettis (Girl, Interrupted) as awkward misfit Carrieta White. Torn between an abusive, hysterically religious mother and relentless school bullies, Bettis' Carrie is a knowing, tortured soul who uses the Internet to research her emerging powers and knows that popular girl Sue Snell's pity is behind her hunky boyfriend Tommy Ross' invitation to the homecoming dance.

But NBC's gargantuan movie, consuming three hours of prime time tonight, doesn't use its size to tell new truths. It's just bloated, wasting David Keith (An Officer and a Gentleman) in a new twist as a cop investigating the slaughter that ensued after bullies ensured that Carrie and Tommy would be elected homecoming king and queen, only to dump a bucketful of pig's blood on them during the coronation.

Despite its size, NBC's Carrie leaves too much unexplained: Why do the school's bullies hate this shy misfit so much? And why does the network spend so much time showing us how these morons killed the pigs to harvest their blood?

NBC seems to be betting that young viewers won't have seen De Palma's 1976 version, featuring Sissy Spacek as Carrie, Piper Laurie as Carrie's mom, Margaret, and John Travolta as the psycho boyfriend. If you have, you'll spend most of tonight waiting for the big payoff and wondering why the special effects don't look 26 years better.

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