It’s a miracle beyond modern Hollywood science that CHILD’S PLAY (2019) doesn’t suck major doll ass. In fact it is pretty entertaining, with some gruesome cool kills and Mark Hamill’s wonderful, wonderful voice work for the new Chucky. The movie is flawed to be sure, and doesn’t even come close to any kind of ballpark when talking about the brilliant original film, but when recent remakes/reboots have been complete and utter dog shit (looking at you Pet Sematary), anything half way decent is a warm welcome. The key to the whole thing: other than the character’s names and one kinda/sorta borrowed climax piece of dialogue, the story is completely different. The problem with the new Pet Sematary is that it tried to tell the same story as the book and the original film, but majorly changed a couple of key things where it ultimately tripped on itself and fell hard. The new Child’s Play takes the notion of a killer ginger doll named Chucky, and pushes itself off into its own unknown.
For the rest of this review, I thought I’d take a cue from Comingsoon.net and do a different kind of review, basically just listing What Worked and What Didn’t with no spoilers and then my concluding thoughts, so let’s try this out:
- Mark Hamill’s Voice
Honestly if it wasn’t for Mark Hamill’s fantastic voice work here, this movie probably would have been a disaster. The few clips and audio sound bytes had me worried that he’d sound too much like the Joker, but other than the laugh, this is a new original Hamill take on Chucky. Instead of being a soul of a psychopathic serial killer, the doll is just a AI learning robot that runs AMOK when he realizes he can’t play with Andy and be his best buddy all the time, and Hamill’s voice makes an entirely new character that separates itself completely from the genius of Brad Dourif’s original work.
2. The Completely Different Story
I sort of liked that the filmmakers made Chucky just a little sympathetic this time around (think of a doll version of The Cable Guy). And yeah, yeah I know it takes away from the menacing mean no holds barred factor of Dourif’s work, but the filmmakers wanted to separate themselves and do something new and “with the times”, and go the route of AI technology going haywire. It seemed like the most obvious and best way to go, and I’ll have to agree. Andy is also older in this, so the real question I had going into it was: why the hell would this 13-14 year old boy want a doll like this? Well, the movie plays on the kids loneliness after just moving, the advanced technology angle (this doll can do a shit load of stuff because it is tied with Kaslan products ((Think Alexa and Amazon.com)), and other inner turmoils fortunately make his initial attachment to the doll believable. The kills are different, there are actual other kids that befriend Andy in this film, and the climax does things that none of the other Chucky films have done thus far.
3. Andy and Other Killer Tidbits
As I said above, Andy in this is older, and the actor that plays him, Gabriel Bateman, makes this character more interesting than he was in the original movies. Andy here has more to do, so it isn’t just a little 6 or 7 year old whining how “Chucky did it!” and just screaming for his mommy the whole time (I’ll admit, the original Andy gets much, much better in Child’s Play 2). Gabriel Bateman is a fantastic edition, and if there happens to be sequels, would love to see him come back. Other little tidbits: I liked how Chucky’s Vietnam origins. The kills are nice and gory, with the first major human death by Chucky being a gift that kept on giving (literally). And the end credits was a precious gift as well: it features Mark Hamill singing the new Buddi Doll song with sadistic hilarity. Make sure to stay to the very end (no extra scenes, but the end of the great song). As one other movie critic said, “the funniest end credits song since Clint Eastwood sang one for Gran Torino.”
What Didn’t Work
- The Climax
Without getting into spoilers, the climax has a bunch of people running amok and getting killed, but it ultimately felt very rushed and needed a few moments to take a breather. I didn’t think the movie used the fact that Chucky could use his hilarious E.T. like finger and control other Kaslan products to their full killing potential. Especially in the location of the climax where it was full of other electronic goodies. The climax felt rushed because the editing also felt a bit choppy. The movie was doing so well by that point that with really strong scenes coming before it, it was a little bit anti-climatic and sort of a let down. It really should’ve been expanded about 10 minutes with some more cool kills and small rewarding character moments. But that’s just me.
2. Aubrey Plaza And Wasting Brian Tyree Henry
Aubrey Plaza isn’t very good in this. She seems to be a different version of April from Parks & Recreation in every other project that she does, and here is no different. They have a one line thing explaining how she’s still a very hot looking mom, but she was completely unbelievable as a mother. Makes me pine for Catherine Hick’s performance in the original. And while Brian Tyree Henry (he has been excellent in whatever he does) does what he can as the cop that just “happens” to be living with his elderly mom as Andy’s neighbors, his role is ultimately wasted, and make it seem like they could’ve completely written his character out and had background minor speaking cop roles and it could’ve all worked out the same.
3. Other Little Plot Contrivances and Conveniences
Also what didn’t work was some of the usual flawed script problems with little plot contrivances and conveniences every now and then. Smart characters do dumb and stupid things that are out of character. I mentioned above that the one main cop happens to live next door to Andy and is called upon to investigate strange deaths. I would’ve liked to see the screenplay have a more natural way where Tyree cops character comes into the fold. Chucky is also constantly in the right place at the right time now matter how far away he originally was. I could go on and on but its just the stupid little horror cliches that end up getting on my nerves, and into my reviews, no matter what new suspense film come out.
4. The Look Of The Doll
I hope that whoever designed Chucky in the 80’s with those wonderful practical doll effects is a multi-millionaire, because the look of the doll here is really lacking. And yes, I do realize that in the original films it was a soul of a human in the doll, and the doll was slowly getting human blood, organs, and other anatomy because of magic voodoo shit as time went by, yadda, yadda, yadda. But why was the look here so ‘meh’? And while the doll looks a little creepy here, it feels as though a lot more effort should’ve been put into maybe making Chucky look cute and innocent at first and then really maniacal once shit went down. But instead, the doll just looks fake and creepy at, and then its eyes just glow red and eyebrows furrow a little bit when Chucky is upset. Yes, it was supposed to look more mechanical due to the fact that it was just AI running amok, but in no way, shape, or form could I see people actually wanting this product for their kids even though it could do a whole bunch techno shit. Surely a company out there would design and sell better. Wasn’t buying the hype displayed here for the product. Minor nitpick about the doll: some of the one liners made me laugh out loud, but basically most of the time the doll was just a parrot, telling victims things it was taught earlier in the film. But since hearing Hamill actually say them made me laugh, and the fact it was supposed to be a AI doll learning from its environment, that nitpick is totally forgivable.
So overall the new Child’s Play was good not great, but we have to consider that a miracle. Everything was pointing at it to be awful. Everything. The fact that the review embargo didn’t lift until less than 24 hrs from hitting theaters. The fact that it barely showed Chucky in the promotional materials and you hardly heard Mark Hamill say a thing (how the marketing didn’t focus on Hamill and his brilliant voice performance is quite odd, I guess they wanted everything to be a surprise, but unfortunately you can’t really do that anymore this day and age unless you are of Avengers Endgame type quality). That fact that I’m so in love with the original Chucky and think that the 80’s Child’s Play is one of the best horror films of all time. My expectations were low as they could ever be. But then reviews saying it was “flawed but fun” gave me a little hope and I tried to go in with more of an open mind. It would be nice if this new Child’s Play should set the standard with remakes/reboots being half way decent going forward. Then Hollywood would have no choice but to improve, improve, and improve upon that standard. But who am I kidding? That’s not how the studios play, and it will never be their game of choice let alone even an idea that is kept pent up in their very small scope toy box.
My Rank of Chucky Films:
- Child’s Play
- Child’s Play 2
- Cult Of Chucky
- Curse of Chucky
- Child’s Play (2019)
- Bride of Chucky
- Seed of Chucky
- Child’s Play 3