Was the world asking for a re-imagining of 1988’s Child’s Play? I don’t think so. But regardless, Chucky decided it was time to come out of the box and play once again, this time in a technically savvy modern America society.
IMDB’s logline for Child’s Play is effectively simple: “A mother gives her 13-year-old son a toy doll for his birthday, unaware of its more sinister nature.”
The audience is treated to a slow arcing learning curve of the evil Buddi toy. The story takes its time, one could argue a bit too long, in cementing the pure evil that Chucky is. Much like the 1988 version, this malevolent smart toy just wants to be best friends with the main character Andy. All those surrounding the Buddi toy just see it as somewhat defective, but eventually everyone sees the nastiness that Chucky is programmed with.
Andy in this 2019 version is older than his counterpart in the original, but the same lonesome, “in-need-of-friends” personality is present. Chucky himself still his kitchen knife, but an upgrade parallels a societal terror of being interconnected with technology in all ways. In Child’s Play, the Kaslan company makes the Buddi toy and the corporation itself is compared cheekily to major real-world technology companies.
You can connect any Kaslan device to another, and therefore, any Buddi toy can work with anything Kaslan produced connection. Essentially, picture Chucky as an evil Amazon Alexa with a walking capability. The unique marketing prior to the film’s release hinted at this capability. There is a WiFi signal over the “i” in “Buddi.”
Speaking of advertising, if you were anywhere on Twitter in the month’s leading up to Child’s Play release you saw the themed posters of Toy Story toys being dismembered by Chucky. This blatant piggy-backing on the release of Disney’s Pixar Toy Story 4 divided some, but no one can deny that it was effective in garnering attention. One connection between the two movies I didn’t make till literally penning this review is that the titular child in each movie is named Andy. It was so obvious that I completely blanked on it.
I walked into the double doors of New Rochelle’s Regal shrugging my shoulders while harboring middling expectations. I walked out of those same double doors shrugging my same shoulders and muttering to myself, “It wasn’t good. It wasn’t terrible. I just was…”
Child’s Play does do one thing extremely well. It is confident in its voice. In his directorial debut, Lars Klevberg ensures that this contemporary version of the cult classic hit many of the same beats that the 1988 original laid claimed to. There are numerous overly grotesque kills and comically terrifying jump scars featuring a screaming child’s toy. The absurdity of characters wrestling with a 29” doll (according to Reddit) isn’t lost on Klevberg and he doesn’t cut away from those moments in an attempt to hide the awkwardness. Child’s Play knows what it is, warts and all.
The acting is…there. The best performance was by Ty Consiglio playing Pugg, a friend of Andy. There are no real performances to write home about, but I always do enjoy seeing Aubrey Plaza on the silver screen as Andy’s mother. I need to finish FX’s Legion because she is fantastic in that. I strongly recommend it.
The most notable personality that was top-billed for Child’s Play is Mark Hamill. The man is a legend among the nerd and dork community. His voice work as The Joker in the animated Batman Universe got fans of the Chucky franchise very excited for what he could offer. Hammill’s work in Child’s Play is a noticeable improvement upon the original. No disrespect to the original voice, Brad Dourif. Hamill does the most with the simplistic dialogue Chucky has but I wouldn’t say it’s his best work. His maniacal lave from the Batman animated series is superior to the creepy chuckles of Chucky.
The major gripes I have with Child’s Play come in its story structure and conclusion. The first 50 minutes of the movie drew out the story with some scarce suspense moments. The last 40 minutes tried to pay off the slow play. It did not do so effectively. There is an unnecessary rush to everything in the end. It’s like the movie was slowly wading in a lazy river when all of a sudden it took a sharp right and became a raging rapids death trap. In particular, the last 15 minutes was so off-kilter with what the majority of the film was in terms of pacing and directing.
Child’s Play satisfies those who live the evil doll and the type of horror he embodies. It is confident in what it strives to be, but I don’t think it lives up to all the potential it had. Too much focus on the garish bloody moments and a sloppy conclusion take away from what could have been a true modernization and adrenalin shot of the Chucky franchise.
Stanko Rating: C-