‘Child’s Play’: A mild horror movie worth watching once

“Child’s Play” certainly entertains despite its flaws, but you will forget the movie once you leave the theater.

By Vikrum Mathur

Right of the bat, I will admit I am a huge fan of the “Chucky” franchise. In fact, I am such a big fan, that I would place the original Child’s Play as my all-time favorite horror movie. As one of the most enduring, iconic and tonally diverse movie series of all time, it was only a matter of time before either a reboot or remake would be on the anvil and, sure enough, we now have this new entry in the series and I could not have been more excited to see a different take on the original.

What is fascinating is that this remake is actually separate from the original franchise, which is still going strong spanning seven movies and an upcoming TV series. The creator of Chucky, Don Mancini, was not involved at all with this remake and was reportedly furious over Orion Pictures proceeding with it due to the original franchise still continuing.

When the film was announced, the creators stated that while it would have some similarities with the original, it would take the Chucky character into a new direction. We now have a Chucky that is not possessed by the soul of a serial killer, but is rather a product of AI. Casting wise, we have Aubrey Plaza in the lead, and behind the scenes, the producers of the new IT. With such talent involved, does this remake deliver? Or is it an unnecessary cash grab with the horror boom currently going on? Let’s find out…

The film tells the story of a young, single mother Karen (Aubrey Plaza) who lives with her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman). Andy is lonely and to help him out of his isolation, Karen gifts him with a brand new AI doll, known as the “Buddi” doll. Andy names the doll Chucky (voiced by Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill) and the two strike up a friendship. Chucky, who learns things by processing what he observes, literally begins believing Andy is his best friend and will do anything to make him happy, even if it means murder. Will Andy be able to stop Chucky? Why is Chucky behaving the way he is? Watch Child’s Play to find out!

From the performance side, Aubrey Plaza is, as always, excellent. She brings levity to the film with her charming performance and is the big star draw for the movie. Gabriel Bateman also impresses with his performance as a smart and brave Andy, while Brian Tyree Henry is strictly ok as Detective Mike Norris. He seems quite monotone throughout and is not a likable character. Mark Hamill is good as Chucky, but the character is limited in scope when compared to what Brad Dourif did in the original. If a doll is possessed by a serial killer, there are a lot more shades that can come out. But if you are a robot, you are stuck with certain limitations, and that unfortunately is a constraint that Hamill’s Chucky faces. The rest of the supporting cast perform their roles well and deliver what is expected of them.

The direction by Lars Klevberg is pretty good, though the film does not seem as refined as the original Child’s Play. It is a little rough around the edges due to the quick pacing, which does not really allow us to develop sympathy for any of the human characters, which is a big flaw. The original Child’s Play did an excellent job of defining the close relationship between Andy and his mother, and then eventually having us root for them in their fight against Chucky. Here, the only character one feels sympathy for is Chucky himself. A robot trying to understand the world around him and please his owner, you feel bad for him. When he does go crazy, it is not convincing because it seems to come out of nowhere and the reasoning is not particularly strong.

Aubrey Plaza is wasted in her role. She is only there for a brief period in the beginning and then toward the end. I have no idea why she wasted her time doing this movie with such a meatless role. Additionally, the character of Detective Mike Norris, who was a hero in the original, is nothing more than a random suspicious character here. He does nothing truly heroic and does not have the tough personality that Chris Sarandon had in the original. Another thing I did not like is the fact that Chucky is a robot. While I understand that the AI piece is relevant to today and makes the movie different and somehow more interesting, the robotic movements take away from the humanlike and terrifying qualities that Chucky had in the original. Being possessed by a serial killer is definitely scarier than a malfunctioning doll. The special effects seemed a bit tacky and there was a lot left to be desired. Finally, I hate gore, and this film had a decent amount of it.

Having said all this, there is a lot to like as well, and fortunately, that outweighs what I disliked. The film has a terrific sense of humor and does do a great job of adding emotional heft to the movie. There are times when you generally feel sad for Chucky, and the fact that you feel that is clearly a win for the director. The general idea of the movie is modern, and I appreciate horror taking that into account. Also, the movie makes a sincere effort to add new situations and characters in the mix, so while it is generally similar to the original, there is a lot of new stuff here, which works for the most part. Overall, I liked the emotion and I liked the humor.

All in all, I would say this movie is most definitely a one-time watch. It is a milder horror movie than most and is a fun time for sure, but you will forget the movie once you leave the theater. I will go with a 3/5 for this one. It certainly entertained me despite its flaws, but I will remain forever loyal to the original franchise.

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