Child's Play (2019)
"More than a toy... he's your best friend"
In an attempt to cheer up her son, Andy, and make up for the unease cause by their relocation and her new boyfriend Shane, Karen buys him the gift that every child wants - Buddi, a revolutionary line of high-tech dolls designed to be life-long companions to their owners which learn from their surroundings. However, the Buddi doll Andy is given has had its safety protocols disabled by a disgruntled worker in the factory in Vietnam. Adopting the name Chucky, the doll begins to display violent tendencies towards anyone and anything that gets in the way of his friend for life – Andy.
It’s virtually impossible to reinvent a character that has become such a recognisable pop-culture icon since its debut in 1988 – Chucky, the little red-haired killer doll even made an appearance in Spielberg’s Ready Player One, such is its infamy. It’s even more difficult to understand quite why anyone gave this remake the greenlight, especially considering that Child’s Play’s original creator, Don Mancini, is making a completely separate TV series featuring the original Chucky with the original voice, Brad Dourif, to carry on the legacy. It appears that somewhere down the line, someone wanted to tear away the Child’s Play series from Mancini’s hands. Fans of the series can’t complain that they haven’t had enough of the killer doll over the years – the original Child’s Play timeline now extends to seven films – but die-hard fans may struggle to accept this lookalike imposter muscling in on hallowed turf. It may be an upgraded model, but it’s definitely not an upgraded film.
Let me say one thing off the bat - the creative minds behind this remake do an excellent job of updating the killer toy idea for the 21st century. The original Chucky was a nod to the excitement surrounding the likes of the Care Bears and Teddy Ruxpin that used to grip the 80s whenever a new fad toy was released. Now, no longer just a toy running on batteries, these Buddi dolls can walk and talk on their own, have downloadable apps that you can plug your smart phones into, Alexa-like voice controls and learn to adapt to their surroundings. It’s contemporary enough to play upon our fears of modern technology intruding into our lives too much, though once again it’ll probably be obsolete in another ten years or so when something else more realistic comes along for kids to get into.
Child’s Play also puts a different spin on the doll’s origins (so much so, you wonder why they even bothered calling him Chucky) but it almost seems like it’s an obligation for Chucky to turn into the murderous killer doll he’s infamous for being – the reasons here are sketchy at best (disgruntled worker reprogramming the doll) and plagiaristic at worst (he does what all killer robots do in these films and that’s malfunction). There was potential to focus on the all-conquering conglomerate knowingly releasing this type of product upon the world but the script fails to build upon that – once Chucky ‘breaks’ and starts murdering people, the purpose of any exposition as to the reasons why is fairly insignificant. Gone is the voodoo and mysticism of the original timeline too, replaced by a more standard issue malfunctioning toy. The notion that the original doll contained the spirit of serial killer Charles Lee Ray always gave Chucky that added sadistic edge, like he wanted to do more and go further with his plans but was restricted by his diminutive frame and the fact he was just a plastic toy. However, the idea that he’s now just a toy kind of takes away the human qualities he had, with all of the positive and negative connotations that meant. He could get angry and let his hatred force him to make rash decisions in the heat of the moment, whilst he could show compassion for his family too. Now he’s just a killer robot.
Mark Hammill is no Brad Dourif but he’s a great voice actor as he’s consistently demonstrated as the Joker in the Batman animated TV series, bringing a different kind of menace to Chucky. He’s not as prone to shouting, screaming and swearing as Dourif’s doll but Hammill’s voice is creepier and more innocent. This Chucky sees nothing wrong with what he’s doing and does things not out of malicious spite but because of a programmed desire to want to be friends and feeling threatened when he’s not. There’s also an amusing nod to Hammill’s most famous role as, during the scene when Chucky is being named, the kid gives him the name Han Solo. The main problem with this Chucky is that he looks and acts creepy as hell even before he starts to snap. I’m not sure why any kid would want of these sinister-looking robots following them around in the house all day. It’d be enough to give anyone nightmares, let alone the smaller children they’re marketed at in the film.
Child’s Play does feature some creative kills, though not as many as you’d hope for. What we do get is decent enough carnage, leaving you wanting just that little bit more, but filled with enough blood and gore to keep the rating high. Black humour does filter through into the film too, with a few of the kills being poetic justice for some of the victims on the receiving end. One particular sequence involving a set of Christmas lights is destined be feature on classic slasher kill lists in the future. As the film ramps up the kills, it looks to set it’s stall out for an orgy of violence inside the department store as Chucky hijacks the new stock of dolls and gets ready to wipe out a whole store full of shoppers. Sadly, the finale is so anti-climactic with not only this sequence failing to deliver the goods but the much-anticipated Chucky versus Andy confrontation failing to live up to usual genre expectations of antagonist and protagonist colliding.
This finale kind of sums the film up its entirety. Child’s Play is a film which feels rushed and edited a bit too much for its own good, shedding anything that detracted from it’s initial potential as a slasher flick and side-lining a lot of the fresh and novel ideas it brought to the material. The good news is that, unlike reboots such as the horrendous A Nightmare on Elm Street remake, Child’s Play does a decent job on its own two feet. Its not the Chucky we know and love, but it’s a decent substitute.
Director(s): Lars Klevberg
Writer(s): Tyler Burton Smith (screenplay by), Don Mancini (based on "Child's Play" screenplay by), John Lafia (based on "Child's Play" screenplay by)
Actor(s): Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, Bryan Tyree Henry, Tim Matheson, Mark Hamill (voice)
Duration: 90 mins