There’s so many mixed emotions when thinking about the Chucky horror franchise being remade, even though I was never really that big a fan of those movies. Even so, the original 1988 Child’s Play is deemed a classic for a very good reason, and most of that comes down to what Brad Dourif brought to the character, making Chucky so menacing and horrifying despite merely being a puppet made out of fabric and plastic.
This is clearly a very different Chucky, something made evident by the fact that the popular consumer-targeted doll “Buddi” is actually something more like an APP-driven helper for kids. Obviously, it’s as hot as the “Tickle Me Elmo” was in its day. Gone are the supernatural connections of this being a doll possessed by a killer, but rather Chucky’s motivations come from a bit of programming revenge by a disgruntled factory worker.
Once again, Chucky’s “best friend” is a boy named Andy, played by Gabriel Bateman (Lights Out), whose single mother (Aubrey Plaza) works at a department store where those Buddi dolls are selling like hotcakes. When a defective Buddi is returned, she brings it home to Andy who is having trouble making friends in their new neighborhood. Andy soon finds out that his super-creepy Buddi doll does not like anyone who hurts his new best friend. If you’ve seen the original Child’s Play, you can pretty much guess what happens next.
Mark Hamill is no slouch when it comes to the voice replacement for Dourif, and he’s done tons of impressive voice work, including the voice of the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series and literally hundreds of other animated characters. Hamill isn’t the issue, as much as is the choice to make Chucky so mechanical and robotic compared to the original doll that genuinely seemed to come to life and therefore, was much more terrifying. The new Chucky is certainly creepy but that aspect of the doll is played up for humor so much in the first half of the movie, his deadlier tendencies are hard to take seriously.
Brian Tyree Henry’s police detective, whose mother lives in the same building as Andy and his mother, also ends up getting involved in Chucky’s machinations with others in their life and building so slimy, you just know full well that they’ll get their due at Chucky’s hands. I genuinely like Aubrey Plaza as an actor, and it’s surprising she isn’t the funniest part of the movie, so she seems wasted in the mother role, similar to Henry, who also seems to be good for the movie.
Child’s Play does offer some laughs mainly because it’s never trying to take itself or any of the characters too seriously. Many of the horror movies of the ‘80s were cheesy fun never meant to be taken too seriously, and in that context, the new Child’s Play is good for a few laughs. Also, the kills are good, gory fun that generally don’t disappoint. Despite the obvious flaws, the movie never gets boring, that’s for sure.
There are just things that don’t make sense story-wise, and that’s mainly because the script isn’t great. Some of the decisions made – like having Andy requiring a hearing aid, something that is forgotten until it becomes a convenient plot device – just don’t really work and serve little purpose.
On the other hand, the movie is not particularly scary either, at least not compared to the original, as director Lars Klevberg mainly uses jump scares to try and startle the audience. Other than Plaza and Henry, the actors just don’t do enough to really sell the terror and tension needed for the movie to truly work.
Although Child’s Play offers some fun laughs if you don’t take your filmgoing too seriously, it pales in comparison to the original movie and most of the inventive quality horror being made these days. In other words, and as expected, Child’s Play is an unnecessary throwback that never really needed to be revived. We were truly spoiled by last year’s Halloween.