CHILD’S PLAY (2019)
Starring Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, Brian Tyree Henry, David Lewis, Beatrice Kitsos, Ty Consiglio, Carlease Burke, Trent Redekop, Marlon Kazadi, Nicole Anthony, Kristin York, Amber Taylor, Mia Bella, Ben Andrusco-Daon, Zahra Anderson, Olivia Poon, Hannah Drew, Amro Majzoub, Johnson Phan, Eddie Flake, Tim Matheson and the voice of Mark Hamill.
Screenplay by Tyler Burton Smith.
Directed by Lars Klevberg.
Distributed by Orion Pictures. 90 minutes. Rated R.
There has always been something a little off about the Child’s Play series. The idea of a killer doll is a pretty long-standing horror trope, therefore the concept of the spirit of a serial killer taking over a doll and wreaking havoc in the night can potentially be a winner. Of course, the reality of the film series is that while some people will find a killer doll horrifying, the specific doll they used – a small ginger kewpie doll with fat cheeks and chubby little hands brandishing little knives and making wisecracks as he mows people down – looks a little ridiculous.
There is a reason that the last several Chucky films concentrated on post-modern humor and the corny aspects of the situation rather than the horror.
Therefore, when rebooting the series – which was sadly inevitable – they had to decide if they wanted to play it as a straight horror or continue to highlight the humorous qualities of a cute, tiny little plastic mad slasher. Inexplicably, they decided to play it rather straight. Sure, there were some funny parts – it would be impossible to do a movie with this storyline without some laughs – but they were working harder at coming up with “imaginative” graphically violent and gory deaths than they were at looking at the absurdities of the situation.
That was a bad choice.
The new Child’s Play was pretty much shunned when it briefly played in theaters a few months ago – by both casual horror fans and more specifically fans of the original franchise, who were vocally unhappy about some of the changes made from the original. (More about that soon.) So now that it is getting a video and on-demand release will Child’s Play catch some fan love? After all the original films were also mostly theatrical failures which caught on with a cult audience on video and cable.
I rather doubt it. I’m no huge fan of the original series, but at least those were mostly better than this.
First of all, it was a huge mistake to change Chucky into a CGI effect. The original doll models were kind of ridiculous looking, but the new Chucky looks almost comically unrealistic. From the face, to the body, to the expressions, to the moves, there is nothing the tiniest bit scary about the new Chucky. And, yes, that was the consensus among the fans of the original.
The fans also chafed at the odd massive change of Chucky’s back story. Instead of being a normal child’s toy which is possessed by the spirit of a killer, the new Chucky is an AI robot-toy which has been sabotaged (for some odd rather inexplicable reason) by a disgruntled sweatshop worker. All of the toy’s failsafe protections are turned off, so this one doll leans to curse, learns to lie, and eventually learns to kill.
Okay, so they made some bad choices. Did they make any good choices? Well, yes.
The top amongst those is using former Luke Skywalker-turned-ubiquitous voiceover actor Mark Hamill as the voice of Chucky. Not that Academy Award nominated (for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) actor Brad Dourif didn’t do a good job in the original films, but Hamill’s voice work is one of the few places that the new film keeps up with the originals.
There was also some smart casting with the likes of Aubrey Plaza as the harried mom who brings the defective Chucky doll home, and Brian Tyree Henry as the smart-but-goofy cop whose mom lives down the hall. However, it was a shame to hire such good actors and give them so little to do.
And the cheesy “You’re my buddy” song that Chucky sings is a damn earworm. I couldn’t get it out of my mind for hours after seeing the movie. It was sort of like the Barney theme or the 1-877-Kars4Kids jingle – you don’t exactly enjoy it, but once you hear it you can never forget it.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2019 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 24, 2019.