Movie review: ‘Child’s Play’ (2019)

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Chucky is back! Before creator Don Mancini releases a Chucky television show…there is a fresh reboot that wants our undivided attention. This remake, directed by Lars Klevberg, a Norwegian filmmaker, follows a mother (Karen) and son (Andy). Early on, the mother buys her son a Buddi doll, a popular form of artificial intelligence, mostly used within household structures. At first, the Buddi doll (AKA Chucky) is sweet and charming, even though his defective background creates minor glitches/inconsistencies. But as the human-toy bond grows, the development process takes a turn for the worse. 

Like the original “Child’s Play,” this story is unbelievably lean. Unlike other films, it doesn’t commit to an overlong running time. It simply tries to tell a slasher story connected to human emotions. Of course, there are minor missteps. There is a massively unnecessary subplot that stalls the narrative’s descent into chaos. And also, the narrative includes a group of irritating, stereotypical teenagers. In retrospect, the inclusion of a teenage crew feels like an attempt to replicate the magic of “It: Chapter One” and “Stranger Things.” Unfortunately, the teenage group lacks the depth and versatility of those popular crews. 

In many ways, “Child’s Play” feels inspired by Steven Spielberg’s “ET,” a picture that developed a meaningful partnership between a young boy, dealing with youthful adversity, and an alien lifeform, unaccustomed to life on Earth. Here, Chucky is extremely unfamilar with human logic. When kids watch “Texas Chainsaw Massacre II” and laugh at its over the top gore, Chucky assumes that cutting someone with a knife will generate a positive response. When Andy says that he wants someone gone, Chucky intervenes, and takes matters into his own bloody hands. 

In the 1988 film, Chucky was a slimy character, overflowing with callousness and vulgarity. Clearly, that film established Chucky as a horror icon. But from an emotional standpoint, the character doesn’t change. In this film, Chucky’s emotional development is embraced. Chucky’s actions, while legitimately horrific, are somewhat understandable. 

Klevberg successfully establishes Chucky’s societal naivety and misunderstandings. In turn, we are able to see how specific phrases and visuals can confuse a newly formed being. I found this part of the flick to be a breathe of fresh air. It’s a subtle form of rhetoric, hinting at the notion that context must be consistently expressed to someone during the ongoing stages of humanistic development. The narrative’s inclusion of artificial intelligence is remarkably clever, and points to the detailed work that must go into the process of developing real life robotics, meant to be high end forms of intellect. 

There is an enormous amount of focus towards the human-toy relationship. Unlike the original, Chucky and Andy’s friendship is expanded. Gabriel Bateman brilliantly portrays Andy. He creates a believable child character, struggling to verbally communicate, party due to technological obsession. Overall, Bateman’s commitment creates a modern portrait of youthful upbringings, largely connected to technological addiction. Credit must also be given to Mark Hamill, an experience voice actor, widely known for his legendary Joker voice on “Batman: The Animated Series.” He wonderfully fills the shoes of Brad Dourif, and gives us a fresh rendition of Chucky. 

Hamill, with his sweet, soft-spoken voice, humanizes Chucky. He makes the iconic toy a likable, lonely being, seeking company and comfort. At the onset, we feel sorry for Chucky, due to the film’s utilization of companionship and affection. Chucky seems like a robotic pet, patiently waiting for his owner to return home. Like a loyal pet, he loves his owner and enjoys fellowship. The end result is a heartwarming friendship, brimming with cohesiveness. 

Ultimately, this layered friendship sets us up for tragedy. As Chucky gives into his dark side, we begin to think about the minor mistakes taken along the way. In other words, if characters would have taken minor precautions, Chucky’s evil progression would likely be nonexistent. It’s the type of movie that plays out like a subtle tragedy. Hamill’s Chucky lacks the brutal hostility of Dourif’s rendition, but that’s the point. Hamill creates a creepy antagonist, full of genuine charm, most definitely too good to be true. Hamill’s voice work taps into our fears regarding the contamination of a good being. 

Klevberg and his crew create highly imaginative kill sequences. Like 1980’s horror, the film let’s loose, and embraces the star-like status of its slasher. Certain scenes will demand repeat viewings from devoted horror fans. When crap hits the fan, the puppet work stands out even more so. Chucky feels like an operational entity, brimful of believability and resonance. The concept of a doll coming to life is goofy, yes, but the technological origin of Chucky perfectly parallels our tech driven world. What if, in the near future, robotic entities turn on us? It’s plausible. 

Obviously, we are dealing with a killer toy. So clearly, the bloody scenes have a darkly comedic vibe. But most times, there is a feeling of intense anxiousness. Like other pieces of effective horror, “Child’s Play” reminds us that humans aren’t bulletproof. The flick’s violent aspects reinforce the fact that potential forms of death and agony surround us. It’s the type of horror that reminds us of how fragile our bodies are. 

I recommend “Child’s Play.” The film manages to reboot an already popular series, and oddly enough, it improves upon certain elements of the original. The conclusion is set up in a way that rationally expands Chucky’s world. Sadly, the ending doesn’t quite stick the landing. Everything wraps up a little too easily. Regardless, if you are looking for a fun movie, check out “Child’s Play!” As a horror fan, I give it my seal of approval. 

My Grade:  B

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