Review: Child’s Play (2019)

CHILD’S PLAY (2019) REVIEW

7.5 out of 10

Walking out of the ‘Child’s Play’ remake, I felt conflicted: on one hand, this movie is so unlike ‘Child’s Play’ that it could have been it’s own original movie – aside from character names, a vague similarity to the original character design, and an updated take on the Barclay family dynamic, there’s not really much in common between the original and remake; it doesn’t follow the original story, it doesn’t replicate any scenes or kills, and it has it’s own structure and style – with a quick rewrite and a different Buddi design, this could have been something else entirely. But, as my friend pointed out to me as we were leaving the theater, would I have gone to see this movie if it didn’t have the ‘Child’s Play’ title? It’s a pretty good point, which leads to the other side of my conflicted feelings: I was actually entertained by this movie and some of the changes that were made, and enjoyed seeing it on the big screen, even if doesn’t feel or resemble anything close to the franchise that I love. It’s flawed, but it’s certainly not a bad movie by any means – it’s just doesn’t live up to the ‘Child’s Play’ title, and the expectations that follow it.

Instead of a serial killer making a last-ditch effort to escape death by transferring his soul into Good Guy doll with voodoo, the remake sets up an entirely different premise by beginning with a disgruntled employee at a Kaslan factory located in Vietnam, disabling safety protocols on a Buddi doll that’s near completion before committing suicide.  Back in the United States, Karen Barclay (Aubrey Plaza) works at Zed Mart, a store amping up the promotion of Kaslan products including the upcoming launch of Buddi 2, which has a variety of different Buddi looks and designs. After a customer returns a Buddi claiming its defective, Karen playfully strong-arms/black-mails her boss into letting her take it. She brings it home to her teen aged, hearing impaired son, Andy (Gabriel Bateman) as an early birthday gift. Andy is having a difficult time adjusting to the loss of his father, the move to a new town, and struggles to develop personal relationships with other teenagers. He finds a bond in Chucky, who vows to always be at his side, and although he suspects that somethings not right with his Buddi after Chucky repeats a swear word, he inadvertently exposes the impressionable doll to dark impulses through means of venting, empty threats and desires said in the heat of the moment, and finding amusement in a gruesome-yet-fun 80’s slasher sequel, leading Chucky to mistake violence for happiness. Chucky is loyal and obedient to Andy, and will do whatever it takes to make him happy, and will go to great lengths to protect Andy from anything threatening.

Chucky is not the sadistic fiend that he was in the original series; here he’s played as a more sympathetic character akin to the Frankenstein Monster; he’s misunderstood, and not with bad intentions, it’s just his own misunderstandings that make him a monster. His learning capabilities disabled since his conception, he’s a product of his environment; conditioned by the emotional responses of a teenage boy and his own observations of human nature, Chucky is seemingly unaware of the concepts of right and wrong and every act of violence he commits in the first two acts is made for Andy’s benefit. What makes the character of Chucky so iconic in the original series is that he was a character that was once a man, and his character has a unique, villainous personality that is often humorous, but the key here is that he had personality. This movie is more like a fucked-up version of ‘Toy Story’ than it is a ‘Child’s Play’ movie, but regardless of that opinion, there’s something about this take that I find interesting. I feel like one of this film’s strength is the effectiveness in the relationship between Andy and Chucky, and how Chucky transitions through-out the film. While I do love Mark Hamill’s voice-work as this version of Chucky, I absolutely hated the design of the Buddi doll. It looked like shit. Other than that, I found this new take to be interesting. It’s not exactly the Chucky I know and love, but to me, it’s an intriguing story direction to take if you’re going to remake a late eighties classic.

One other nitpick is a bit of a nerdy one. There’s a scene in the movie where Andy, Chucky and Andy’s new friends are sitting around watching ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2’ (1986), but the scenes shown are placed out of sequence. I know that the meaning behind this scene was to further enhance Chucky’s misunderstanding of violence, but as a long-time horror fan, it’s hard to not spot that huge continuity error made on this film’s behalf.

The Direction, Cinematography, Acting and Score were all fantastic, and there is plenty of gore and gruesome kills to keep horror hounds happy; bottom line is that this is a competently shot horror film that mainly suffers with the above-mentioned character design, and some scripting/logic issues, but is ultimately a fun movie. I liked it for what it was, as its own movie, but disliked it as being billed a ‘Child’s Play’ movie.