A lonely boy (Gabriel Bateman) is given a high-tech “Buddi” doll for his birthday by his busy single mother (Aubrey Plaza). However, the doll, named Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill) soon proves to be defective in more ways than one.
I should probably admit up front before writing this review that I am a bit of a Chucky fanboy. For me personally, the Child’s Play series acted as a gateway into the world of horror as I was growing up, and Child’s Play 2 itself holds the title of being the first R rated horror movie I have a memory of seeing, catching it frequently on late-night television, where I would hilariously hide behind my 13-year-old hands any time that Chucky was on screen.
It’s for this reason that there was a great deal of trepidation upon hearing the original movie would be remade, especially since original creator and series director Don Mancini has been continuing the series via Direct-to-DVD installments with relative quality over the last few years.
With this being Hollywood though, you don’t let a proven franchise languish in the direct to DVD world if you think it can make you a cinematic buck, and since Orion Pictures held the rights to remake the original 1988 release, a remake was born.
The biggest difference between this and the original movie is the complete abolishment of the possession storyline. Gone is the admittedly very 80’s story of a killer transferring his soul into a doll, and in comes a more up to date robot gone wild plotline. I was originally rather hesitant about this switch-up, but after seeing the movie, I definitely agree that it was the right decision.
The reason it works especially well here is because this version of Child’s Play is *all* about the relationship between Chucky and Andy, and Gabriel Bateman gives a very solid and believable rendition of a friendship with a robotic doll, despite being a solid few years too old to be playing with such a toy.
If I could relate the plot to anything (before the gore kicks in), it would hilariously be Toy Story (a movie which Child’s Play has actually taken aim at in its marketing materials).
Everyone remembers the sadness we feel when Woody and pals feel unwanted by Andy as he’s growing up, well this movie plays with that. Here, Chucky is programmed to imprint on whoever first opens him, and be their best friend, so what happens when Chucky sees his new best friend being bullied or making new friends without him? The movie plays with this idea of being unwanted, but instead of accepting it, Chucky takes matters into his own hands and removes the competition.
It’s these moments that set up most of the gore in Child’s Play and while I wouldn’t say it pushes the R rating too much, we do get to see an awful lot of Chucky doing what he does best, with lawnmowers to the face, throat slitting attack drones and a buzz saw to an area where a buzz saw should never go.
Director Lars Klevberg (of the not so great Polaroid) manages to craft a movie that has heart, yet also subtle touches of dark humor. I think there was a fear of falling too far into Bride of Chucky territory with the comedy, but I feel the movie could have embraced its craziness a little more, as the touches we do get are some of the movie’s highlights. For instance, there is a scene where Andy and his friends laugh their way through The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, leading Chucky into delivering Andy a human fresh Leatherface style mask under the belief that it will make him happy. It’s these more over the top side stories that show the true potential of what could have been had the movie not been too scared of going for humor, and the insistence of trying to be *scary*, kind of ends up making the movie more generic.
The biggest gripe many will likely have with this movie is the sections that deal with Andy’s home life. The movie gives the most generic representations of single parenting and an abusive adult that’s been seen in quite some time. Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) is wasted as Andy’s mom, and get’s less screentime than we were led to believe. While Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta) plays a detective living next door who ultimately could have been left out of the script altogether.
The final thing I’d like to address in this review is probably the thing that will make or break this movie for the majority of previous fans, and that is the loss of Brad Dourif as the voice of Chucky. After seven sequels, Dourif’s voice has become synonymous with Chucky, and while landing Hamill, with his previous acclaim as the voice of the Joker, was a big win, it just didn’t completely work for me. I feel Hamill nails the more innocent version of Chucky as he’s trying to befriend Andy, yet falls slightly flat when Chucky’s more evil nature begins to emerge. Whether this issue is with Hamill himself, or the scripts failure to *really* go there though, is up for debate.
While the new Child’s Play definitely feels the loss of Brad Dourif, Mark Hamill makes for an adequate replacement in a movie that has sparks of 80’s horror fun, and a good central child performance from Gabriel Bateman. It will also definitely make you be nice to your toys.