When the first trailer for Child’s Play debuted in the spring of 2019, it looked to be both a modern-day re-imagining of the cult-classic and that Chucky was no longer a serial killer within a doll. Rather, that Chucky was simply just Chucky – an evil robot doll. I couldn’t shake the feeling of familiarity that the trailer left me with. Not in the sense of Child’s Play 88 but rather, The Simpsons, of all things. Yes, you read that right. The first trailer reminded me of Homer and his family. In 1992, one of the annual Treehouse of Horror shorts was called “Clown Without Pity”. In the short, Bart gets a Krusty the Clown doll for his birthday. However, Krusty craves the blood of Homer Simpson but always manages to make Homer out to be a liar and a crazy man throughout its short duration. It’s at the end of the short, Homer is held at knife point and it’s revealed the doll was set to evil.
In some ways, that’s what I was coming to expect with this reboot, and that’s what I got. In the same breath, though, I got something completely different than I had expected. Child’s Play 2019 tells the story of Andy and his mom, Karen, played by Gabriel Bateman and Aubrey Plaza, on a recent move. Andy, experiencing mild depression, is gifted a Buddi doll from his mom and the two create a relationship that builds but ultimately crashes into chaos and destruction. The crew behind the film manages to create a modern, yet creepy atmosphere for the film that honors the legacy of the franchise, while reinventing it in the same capacity. That’s honestly, one of the strongest factors this film has. How it feels like it pays homage to its source material but manages beautifully to stand on its own so well.
Almost everything within this film never goes to waste. So much of this film is intentional in all the right ways. That’s something that I not only fell in love with but also respected so much about this film was its’ approach to the storytelling. The story goes so organically. From the opening frames of the Kaslan commercials exploring what a Buddi doll is to the origins of Chucky and even the growth of Andy and Chucky’s relationship. Even how the deaths are used to project the story forward – almost nothing is left without purpose.
When you have storytelling aspects this strong, you need a strong cast to bring the story to life. Bateman continues to remind us that we are living in an age of strong child actors. Thanks in part to IT: Chapter One, Stranger Things, Summer of 84 & even, The Umbrella Academy – child actors are given chances everyday to prove their strength. You can definitely add Child’s Play to that growing list. Bateman leads a core cast of neighborhood friends who, not only form a bond strong enough for the film’s climax, but also have natural chemistry that can be hard to capture at times. Beatrice Kitsos and Ty Consiglio lead the pact with Bateman to provide some of the film’s most enjoyable moments.
For over thirty years, Chucky has always been brought to life by Brad Dourif. Dourif continues to this day to bring him to life – see you soon Chucky TV show – he has no doubt left his mark on the franchise. Not to mention, given enormous shoes to fill. So, why not turn to Joker voice actor, Mark Hamill to play the iconic doll? Hamill joins the ranks of his youthful cast in crafting an original, memorable and even, sympathetic version of the character. He’s creepy, calm and calculated. Not to mention, this take on the character has more depth and purpose than some of the other characters in the film. Hamill does an outstanding job as the voice and marks what could be another iconic voice performance for his already impressive resume.
As strong of legs as this film has though, it’s not without its’ defects. Some of the CGI for the Buddi dolls feels unfinished and is horribly noticeable. Some of the dolls used are practical effects – which is awesome. It’s when CGI on those practical effects are applied that the final result comes across uninspiring and cheap. Aubrey Plaza, throughout the duration of the first act, lacks strong charisma. It’s hard to take her seriously with the performance. In some regards, it almost feels phoned in until the second act of the film. The change is noticeable and a bit embarrassing for the film. From the first time, we meet her character, it almost feels like she is still playing April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation. It’s not until the film grows that her charisma finally starts to surface and Plaza finally steps into the role of mom. This cast, while its’ impressive on the surface, unfortunately also boasts some two-dimensional characters in David Lewis’ Shane & Trent Redekop’s Gabe. The two are quite forgettable characters with no development and offer little to the overarching plot.
Overall, Child’s Play (2019), is a worthy companion for the franchise. Crafting a modern interpretation of the killer doll through technology gone wrong; instead of serial killers and voodoo. Mark Hamill masterfully brings the famous doll to life. Creating a creepy and even sympathetic version of the character. The film is strongest with its organic storytelling, intentionality in delivery and great young cast. Though, it’s held down by weak CGI, flat performances and two-dimensional characters. For all its’ faults, Child’s Play is an investment of your time.
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Child’s Play is property of MGM Pictures and Orion Pictures. We do not own nor claim any rights. Music by Beggars.