Yes, yes the remake is tired, and the reimagining doesn’t typically pass muster. Believe me, I had my reservations about “Child’s Play” and the film’s marketing did precious little to restore my confidence.
Goddamn, I love to be proven wrong.
“Child’s Play” is fun. It’s a romp, it’s a hoot, it’s a delightful jumpscare. It asks for nothing more than for you to play along and I’m so glad that I did.
“Child’s Play” stars Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman and Mark Hamill (as the voice of Chucky). While the talent in the cast is stacked, our director, Lars Klevberg, is a little green, as is screenwriter Tyler Burton Smith. Does green make it fresh? We’ll get there.
In “Child’s Play” everybody wants a Buddi, a lifelike doll with enhanced AI and the ability to sync up to all of your devices. Single mother Karen (Plaza) gifts her son, Andy, a Buddi of his very own. But there’s something slightly off about Andy’s new best friend.
Voodoo is great and all, but the decision to move Chucky into the present and create a whole new take on the villain was a fantastic idea. We all begrudgingly accept how creepy it is that Alexa is listening to us, that Facebook knows everything we’ve ever looked at on the Internet, and that our smartphone is definitely watching us. Face it, technology is creepy, and giving smart technology a human face…well that’s just disturbing.
The creepy factor is the most deliciously fun element at work in “Child’s Play,” and it’s infused exactly where it should be.
Beyond being the absolute best kind of spooky, “Child’s Play” is funny. From the cast to the very sudden shifts between cutesy and “OH SHIT,” there’s a ton of humor infused into this script and into the performances.
It may be a turnoff for you that “Child’s Play” is deviating so much from the original franchise, and it’s a valid complaint. But the film has not completely forgotten its roots. Little twists of the narrative and very subtle nods here and there remind the avid horror lover that there’s a proud legacy there.
Other noteworthy elements of the film include the very blatant criticism of large retailers like Walmart and Amazon (arguably, they are too blame for all the horror), the kind of gore that makes you giddy, and a really great ensemble of young actors. I’m a hard sell when it comes to the youths, but this gang was so charming.
Now, let’s talk about Chucky.
The original Chucky is crass and you love to hate him. The Chucky of “Child’s Play” is…sweet. Creepy as hell, but sweet…and sympathetic. An unexpected draw of the film was the fact that Chucky was a villain created out of a bad situation involving the child he cared for.
As much as I hated the “uncanny valley” with respect to Chucky, the ability to show nuanced emotion on that doll tugged at the ole heart strings. I dig this new Chucky. And, of course, Mark Hamill is a huge part of that.
We all know Hamill for his voice work as the Joker for many incarnations of the animated “Batman” projects. Hamill is considered by many to be the definitive Joker. What a wonderful background to bring to this role. Primarily through Hamill’s performance, Chucky is creepy, funny and disconcerting, but a buddy, all at once. That voice carries both the character’s complete likability, as wells as the part that just skeeves you out.
Do I think that this incarnation of Chucky can successfully pull off multiple films? No, not really. But that does not detract from how interesting it is to experience a familiar character in such a new way. If I’m being perfectly square, this new Chucky is what made the film.
So, do I recommend “Child’s Play?” Yeah, I really do. But with some restraint.
Going into the film expecting a very traditional slasher — or going into the film expecting a loyal remake of the original — will just set you up for disappointment. Go in prepared to play and open to having fun. It’s an accessible film that is trying something different.
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. Bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.