Director: Lars Klevberg
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, Brian Tyree Henry, Mark Hamill
Screenplay: Tyler Burton Smith
90 mins. Rated R for bloody horror violence, and language throughout.
The new Child’s Play film has had one of the best marketing campaigns of the year, skewering the fact that the film has the same release date as another living toy movie, Toy Story 4. This remake of the horror classic proves, though, that a great marketing campaign never guarantees a great movie.
The recent move for the Barclay family has been tough on Andy (Gabriel Bateman, Lights Out, Benji), so his mother Karen (Aubrey Plaza, Safety Not Guaranteed, TV’s Legion) decides to give him his birthday gift early. Andy is surprised to find that his mother has given him a Buddi doll, a toy from the Kaslan Corporation which connects to all of his other Kaslan products through the cloud, similar to a toy version of an Amazon Echo. There’s a problem, though, for this Buddi doll, named Chucky (Mark Hamill, Star Wars: A New Hope, Con Man) has something wrong with its safety protocols, and Andy soon finds that his new Buddi has no problem committing violent acts and murder in the name of protecting Andy, his Best Buddi to the end.
I actually went into Child’s Play with good feelings, wanting it to succeed, and generally excited. I think the idea to take the story in a completely different direction was a good idea, especially because I think the movie’s existence is a big dick move to the original series. For those of you that may not know, the original Child’s Play series is actually still running strong. The last two films, Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky (which came out 2 years ago), have scored generally good reviews, so much so that a limited series is in the works for television to continue the story of the Brad Dourif-voiced Chucky further. MGM doesn’t own the rights to anything but the first film, and so I think remaking it is a dick move. All that being said, though, I went into it with good vibes which were quickly dashed as the movie began.
First of all, I want to call attention to the elements that actually work in Child’s Play. I think the update to the character of Mike Norris (Brian Tyree Henry, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, TV’s Atlanta) works for the most part, and I like Henry’s interpretation of the character for a bulk of the film. I also really liked the voice work of Mark Hamill as Chucky. The biggest problem with these two generally solid performances is that Henry and Hamill are in the wrong movie. If Mike Norris’s character arc were actually interesting, it would lead to a more solid and conflicted character as the film progresses. Hamill’s Chucky is one that is more contemplative and less an A.I. toy learning that killing is okay. In another reality, if Brad Dourif had passed on the role, Hamill’s voice would have fit better in a Charles Lee Ray killer-in-the-body-of-a-doll movie way better than this version of things.
I also like some of the updates and changes made to the mythology. I think that’s when a remake actually stands a chance. I like the idea of an A.I. toy going off the rails as an interesting new wrinkle, but then why did screenwriter Tyler Burton Smith and director Lars Klevberg (Polaroid, The Wall) go so far into reminding people that it’s a remake. Don’t call the kid Andy. Don’t call the detective Mike. Don’t call the doll Chucky. And don’t design a doll that looks like a shittier version of the Good Guy doll.
If I may point out as well that the design of Chucky is awful. How is it that the Good Guy doll was the 1980s looked more realistic than this new version in 2019? His lips and cheeks move really awkwardly, his expressions don’t create menace and instead just make him look really dumb. There’s nothing outside of Hamill’s voice work that creates anything but a junky piece of plastic.
What bothered me so much in the film was not the changes to the lore, it was the fact that the filmmakers got so lazy in telling the story. They shouldn’t have the guys was the marketing team make this movie, it may have turned out more fun. The movie is just riddled with confusingly dumb plot points. Events in the film seemingly don’t matter to the film. Chucky is loved in a cabinet at one point in the film, only to break out through the glass door. There’s likely glass everywhere, but Andy’s mother doesn’t ask about it and nothing about it is ever mentioned again. Andy, upon discovering one of Chucky’s victims, doesn’t go to the police or his mother. He implicates his brand new friends by inviting them over to take a look at Chucky’s handiwork, not knowing for certain if they’ll go to the police, and they proceed to cover up the evidence by launching things down a garbage shoot. No fourteen-year-old would be dumb enough to make themselves an accomplice to murder and then get rid of the evidence down a garbage shoot where it can easily be found.
The way the film tries to maneuver us through set pieces is dull and boring too. There’s a sequence meant to evoke fear and horror when one character is suspended over a sawblade that is spinning that couldn’t have been more set up if the director walked on screen and announced ten minutes earlier exactly where he was guiding things. I audibly groaned in the theater.
There are logic errors and continuity problems abound in Child’s Play. As I stated earlier, for a film to work so hard on a marketing campaign to scrounge it with the finished product is disappoint and sad. This movie is an absolute trainwreck and I’d rather this new attempt at a franchise just be returned to the story it was bought from; there’s clearly a defect in Child’s Play.
-Kyle A. Goethe