Child’s Play (2019) sees Karen Barclay and her son Andy starting over fresh in a new city. As such, Andy doesn’t have many friends and spends most of his time with his smartphone. When the unsuspecting Karen gives Andy a Buddi doll as an early birthday present, she has no idea that the toy’s safety restrictions have been tampered with. She quickly learns that the doll will stop at nothing, even murder, to make sure that Andy is a friend for life.
Before I get into my analysis of the film, I want to mention that I disagree with MGM and Orion’s decision to reboot a franchise that Don Mancini is still actively developing. That must have felt like a huge slap in the face to the co-creator of the franchise. But, I’ve tried to keep that from clouding my judgment in regards to the film itself. And this is the last time I will make mention of that in this critique.
As I always do, I tried to go into Child’s Play (2019) with an open mind. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the trailer. But, movie previews are a marketing tactic and they are designed to appeal to the widest possible audience. Accordingly, some trailers fail to accurately convey the tone and style of a film. And, for me, this was one of those cases. I liked Child’s Play much more than I thought I would. It’s not perfect, but few films are.
What Child’s Play really succeeds at is delivering a likable child protagonist in Gabriel Bateman (Andy). His acting chops are impressive for a child of his age, which is a great thing when considering that Bateman carries most of the film on his shoulders.
I’m glad that screenwriter Tyler Burton Smith made Andy a little older. According to IMDb, the character is 13. And that’s just about the right age. It allows for Andy to believably face adult situations but still makes him young and vulnerable enough for the other characters to dismiss him when he’s convinced his doll is killing people. He’s a kid, after all.
Speaking of performances, I was perhaps most surprised by Aubrey Plaza as Andy’s mom, Karen. She shows a somewhat diverse range of emotions and even comes across as maternal at times. I am so used to seeing Plaza play one-note characters that I fully expected this to be more of the same. She has a few sarcastic quips but she’s not playing yet another version of April from Parks and Rec. While I’m still not convinced that she was the perfect fit for the role, she absolutely turned in a better performance than I was anticipating.
Mark Hamill was a suitable (but certainly not superior) replacement for Brad Dourif. It’s good that Hamill didn’t try to ape Dourif’s Chucky. He made the character his own and it really seems like he had fun doing it. No one can ever replace Dourif as the voice of Chucky. But, at least Hamill didn’t fall flat on his face trying to fill Dourif’s shoes.
The tone of Child’s Play (2019) is definitely more in line with the sequels from the original cannon that the tone of the original. I was hoping we’d get a finished product that was a little more suspenseful but, it’s hard to deny that this is a gory redux packed with one-liners, most of which land pretty well. There are a few groan-inducing moments. But, overall, this reboot is bloody, funny, and oftentimes highly enjoyable.
Child’s Play (2019) does pay some homage to the original. The lightning storm being one such example. Also, it would be impossible not to notice that the apartment building Karen and Andy live in bears striking similarity to that which was used in its 1988 predecessor. I have to say that the redux does a sufficient job of standing on its own. It rarely, if ever, makes the mistake of thinking that audiences want to see a blow-by-blow remake of that which has come before.
Similar to Don Mancini’s original script for Child’s Play (1988), this reimagining shines the spotlight on the dark side of consumerism. The redux brings to mind memories of consumers being trampled in a quest to score the hottest new toy of the holiday season and reminds us of the pressure toy companies (intentionally or not) put on parents to wow their children with the latest and greatest.
One thing that stood out to me about the 2019 redux is the way that it frequently points out just how vulnerable we are in our smart homes with our always listening devices. It drives home the notion that we are at the mercy of our beloved devices and just how disastrous it would be if the electronics we rely on were programmed to turn against us or somehow became sentient.
As for the effects, I was pleasantly surprised that Chucky was largely brought to life using animatronics and puppeteering. Some of the action sequences required VFX but Chucky is still predominately animatronic.
Picture and sound quality on the Blu-ray are great. The special features have a couple of standouts. The behind the scenes featurettes give the viewer a look at what it took to bring Chucky to life for the film and there are also a couple of really incredible claymation shorts that are equal parts creepy and amazing.
As for why the Chucky doll is so downright hideous in this incarnation, the world may never know. But, if you can get past that, the film is worth a look. Child’s Play (2019) is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director(s): Lars Klevberg
Writer(s): Tyler Burton Smith
Stars: Gabriel Bateman, Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill, Brian Tyree Henry
Release: Now Available on Home Video
Studio/ Production Co: Orion Pictures/Bron Creative/United Artists Releasing/MGM
Length: 90 minutes
Sub-Genre: Evil Toys