Chucky is back, but he isn’t quite what he used to be. In this contemporary retelling of the murderous doll named Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill), the story told primarily focuses on the dangers of being overly reliant on technology. At times, Child’s Play feels more like a feature-length Black Mirror episode and less like a Chucky movie. However, despite being far removed from the original, this remake is an all-around enjoyable slasher.
In this remake of the 1988 Child’s Play directed by Lars Klevberg, we are reintroduced to Chucky’s original victims, Karen Barclay (Aubrey Plaza) and Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman) – a mother-son duo struggling to get by after the death of Andy’s father. Karen works at a supermarket that sells Buddi dolls, and one day a customer returns a defected Buddi. Seeing an opportunity to make her son happy, she brings it home as a gift. Little does she know that the doll is more than just defective, but was programmed to be the exact opposite of a best friend for a child. Soon, she, her son, and their neighbour, Detective Norris (Brian Tyree Henry), become embroiled in Chucky’s murderous obsession of being Andy’s one and only friend.
The remake in many ways moves away from the original story by making the source of Chucky’s murderous tendencies a result of bad programming and not a Haitian Voodoo spell, which was initiated by a serial killer as last ditch effort to survive. In fact, despite having the same name and the Buddi doll looking a lot like the Good Guys doll from the original film, this Chucky is not the old Chucky. Instead, this contemporary retelling stokes current fears of technology becoming self-aware, although at times this makes the movie lose some of the charm it had in the original film.
Even though a lot is done to recapture the charm and magic of the first movie, it doesn’t quite work when you know that there is no human soul controlling this doll. That detail was what differentiated Chucky from your average possessed doll or an A.I. that goes rogue. Chucky isn’t just a name, he was a person whose soul was transferred into a doll, and despite being small in stature, he still retained the strength of a full-grown man. His personality and his hobbies remained in tact, but this new Chucky is the result of programming. In a way, this reimagining makes Chucky less engaging. Until, he starts glitching and Hamill’s freakishly on-point voice work gives you a Chucky worth paying attention to.
Despite the changes undercutting the aspects of Chucky that make him the iconic horror villain that he is, this remake as it’s own thing is very enjoyable. The plot points are easy to see a mile away, but it’s still a fun ride. The film suffers from pacing issues, and some rather underdeveloped characters, but these are things one does not usually seek in a movie about a killer doll. The movie peaks every time Chucky is on-screen, and it has fun with Chucky’s obvious creepiness. Often the movie is poking fun at the absurd nature of any world that would accept such an appalling looking doll as a thing children play with. But, knowing that we live in a world that once embraced Cabbage Patch Kids, it isn’t that much of a leap.
Plaza and Bateman do a lot to give their lifeless characters a reason to have the audience root for them. At times, the mother-son relationship isn’t quite believable, and that’s due to the casting. Despite having great chemistry, the duo is mismatched as mother and son. Also, in this remake, Andy is aged up from six to about 13/14-years-old, which does not do the film any favours. A contemporary 13-year-old would likelyy not be that interested in what is ostensibly Siri or Alexa in a doll. However, Bateman does a lot to sell the loneliness and naivety that very much resides in most 13-year-olds, which explains why he would fall victim to Chucky’s obsession. However, Most 13-year-olds would have gotten rid of the doll as soon as it exhibited strange behaviour; perhaps the doll would have never left its packaging.
Regardless of the changes, these elements just aren’t relevant to this particular story. The reason to watch Child’s Play (or any Chucky movie for that matter), is Chucky himself. Hamill is an ingenious choice to voice Chucky, and he does a great job reminding you of why Chucky has remained a horror classic for as long as he has. The work done on the doll both practical and VFX effectively portray its murderous nature. Even before it is turned on you can sense the evil that so obviously resides within it’s wiring. So much is done with the doll and with Hamill’s voice work that captures your attention, and has you on the edge of your seat. You cannot help but want more from this foul-mouthed ginger doll that wants to sing the Buddi song and slash up your mother’s jerk boyfriend.
All in all, Child’s Play is a fun horror-comedy that gives you exactly what you want, which is a psycho doll saying things he shouldn’t say and killing people. There is enough of Chucky and his antics to have you squirming or laughing in your seat. If there is more Chucky down the road with Hamill at the wheel, then we should all be buckled in for more wild rides.
Be sure to check out Chucky wreaking havoc in the new Child’s Play in theaters now!