Child’s Play Review: An entertainingly unique take on a slasher classic
Although Chucky might not be the same paint and plastic as he was when he hit theaters back in 1989 and there being no involvement from his creator Don Mancini, the Child’s Play series get a breath of fresh air with its latest installment. Keeping the Child’s Play name, but putting a technology driven spin on it, director Lars Klevberg blends the horror and comedic elements of the series to create an entertaining re-imagining.
The film follows a similar plot to the original, in the idea of a killer doll wreaking havoc on a family, but has some adjustments that make this remake a unique entry. First off, the film showcases an older Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman) that’s dealing with more complicated issues of having no friends and nobody to connect to. He isn’t necessarily anti-social, but the fact that he’s new in town and that he must wear a hearing aid has made him afraid to talk to other kids. The reason this is so important is because this new kind of Andy actually sets up a new kind of relationship that he has with Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill).
With Chucky being an artificial intelligence that’s aim is to make Andy happy, it actually gives purpose to why Andy appreciates him so much and why Chucky is so interested in him. The film builds their friendship well with some fun and funny moments that are accented with a standout performance from Bateman. His performance creates a much more mature Andy that viewers will easily connect to and he sells both scary and humorous moments effortlessly. His reactions to Chucky’s growing presence, his paranoia, and his worry for those around him comes off completely genuine. Not to mention, Klevberg and writer Tyler Burton Smith do a great job crafting scenes that help develop Andy and Chucky’s relationship and showcase Andy’s growing paranoia.
As said before, Chucky is no longer possessed by Charles Lee Ray and the film puts a technological spin on the iconic slasher that I really liked. With Chucky being more of a walking, talking A.I., that works like a Google Home or Amazon Alexa, it actually leads to a lot of creepily fun sequences and some creatively gory kills. Klevberg does a great job blending the dark humor many associate with the series with some bloody moments of horror. There’re also some moments where you feel something for Chucky as the film paints him as someone who has similar troubles to Andy. Hamill’s voice actually gives Chucky some charm and it makes him a character that audiences will connect to in a similar way to Andy. The tech aspects of Chucky this time around also allow him to utilize a myriad of weapons to conjure up some great kills. With Chucky being able to take control of TVs, drones, cars, lawnmowers, and plenty of other tech, nothing is off limits and I loved how comedically inventive Chucky was in racking up a body count.
Now, I must address the most obvious and burning question you could be having: What did I think of Chucky’s new look? Frankly, it could be better, but there are things to appreciate about the new kind of killer doll that Klevberg and Smith have created. The mix of practical and CGI effects does create some fun moments and also some unintentionally creepy ones. Seeing Bateman actually walk around with the animatronic doll is cool and the use of practical effects make Chucky feel like he’s actually here. However, the mouth clearly doesn’t sync with Hamill’s dialogue and some of the CGI integration just looks so obvious and not good. Chucky’s face also looks a little melted at times, which kind of works as he is a malfunctioned version of the Buddi doll, but I doubt that that’s what they were going for. It’s also worth noting that while I like Hamill’s voice work here, as he’s legitimately a voice-acting god, I do wish he did something with his voice to not make it sound similar to the Joker or honestly anything else he’s done.
What also could’ve used some work is some of the returning and new characters that are smaller parts to the film. Honestly, I could’ve used a little more of Andy’s mom, Karen (Aubrey Plaza), and Detective Mike Norris (Brian Tyree Henry) just to make a stronger impression. Plaza and Henry put in strong performances and I actually liked how the film creates stronger and more personal relationships between them and Andy. However, while their lack of screen time is likely tied to the film’s desire to delve into the relationship between Andy and Chucky, I just felt that for the important returning characters that they are, they just aren’t given much to do. Andy is also given some human friends this time around that I thought was kind of interesting but could’ve been played with more. The friends, themselves, don’t really add much to what’s happening, but it’s still a nice addition to this story as it was cool to see other kids interacting with the Buddi dolls and they do add some nice humor to the film.
Speaking of humor, I mentioned before about how Klevberg’s direction and Smith’s writing come together to create a lot of great moments that are darkly funny and feel right at home with Chucky. There’s a lot of create visual gags with the other Buddi dolls, including a fluffy surprise that comes later in the film, and some hilariously eerie lines for Hamill to speak. Even the use of the Buddi Song and Chucky’s more curious personality creates some truly funny moments that have just enough of a horror vibe for an entertaining watch throughout. It never takes itself too seriously and feels as if nothing is off limits, so it ends up being a great blend of horror and comedy.
Child’s Play is truly a rarity, especially in a time of remakes and reboots, as it’s actually an entertaining reimagining of a classic slasher by differentiating itself in all the right ways and creating new things to love about the series. Sure, there are some visual hiccups and some other characters that could’ve been given more to do, but Klevberg and Smith do enough with what’s presented to create another entertaining entry to the franchise.