I’ll admit that the original Child’s Play scared me as a child. As a guy with a younger sister who had many dolls around, you can imagine why. I blame my active imagination. However, times have changed and Chucky has changed with them. The original incarnation of our favorite murder doll was possessed with the soul of a serial killer, but maybe the filmmakers of this reboot realized voodoo magic is too much cultural appropriation in these modern times.
So what do you turn to besides magic? Science and smart-home technology to make a hilarious miniature killer.
This review is spoiler-free.
Child’s Play follows a family that is terrorized by a high-tech doll that rejects its programming, becoming self-aware and murderous.
The film opens with a faux-commercial explaining the Buddi dolls are designed to be the nucleus of smart-home technology. The company behind them, Kaslan, is a mixture of Amazon, Uber, and Apple. They produce self-driving cars, ride-hailing apps, speaker systems, and more. It’s everything we love to make our lives more easier today. And having one thing – like a Chucky doll – connect and control all those different devices is a great idea, right?
Single mom Karen (Aubrey Plaza) comes across a Buddi doll at her job, working at a faux-Walmart. She’s desperate to help her young son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) become more acclimated with their new move. Since Andy refuses to make human friends, Karen gifts him a “friend until the end”.
This is the first time Chucky hasn’t been voiced by original actor Brad Dourif and there couldn’t have been a better replacement than Mark Hamill. Having voiced an iconic version of The Joker on Batman: The Animated Series along with other voice acting credits, Hamill certainly has the chops to play a crazed killer with a comedic edge. He even sings a “best buddy” song that’s cringe-worthy but catchy. Damn those tunes! The biggest change in Child’s Play makes Chucky’s path of evil understandable. There are a series of events from his creation to his observations with Andy that gives Chucky justification for his actions. Unlike Dourif’s Chucky, who was a relentless, unstoppable psychopath, Hamill’s Chucky had reasoning to kill which weakens the reasonable gore in the film that you can’t help but chuckle at some time. Not sure if that was the intended reason but that’s how it came off.
Several characters are comedic caricatures of themselves that it’s hard to relate to them or take them seriously as people in real life. But considering the background of the adult leads, serious shouldn’t be what you are expecting. Aubrey Plaza gives the Karen character some flavor with her trademark deadpan sarcasm. The dependable Brian Tyree Henry turns Detective Mike Norris as a pathetic cop that makes you laugh when you enter his apartment.
Sadly, tonal shifts and pacing issues bring the story down. Interesting story threads could have been developed more, even at the sacrifice of cutting too long comedic sets or a longer run time. These threads didn’t have time to materialize before they got bumped to the side for the big climax. The final act is very fun but throws out some of its best parts instead of letting them shine.
It’s funny and ironic that Child’s Play came out on the same day as Toy Story 4. While I love Pixar and colorful characters, it’s nice to be reminded that some toys still have some edge that’s just for adults.
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