Last month while looking at 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre I spoke about the avalanche of remakes in the ’00s. It seemed once 2010 hit any horror icon that hadn’t been remade was in the free and clear. In spite of the original continuity of the Child’s Play still flourishing in the direct to video market audiences apparently needed a remake. Why? Orion, one of the production companies behind the original Child’s Play still has specific rights to the series. While everything that happened in the sequels produced by Universal was off limits the ideas of the first film were up for grabs. So now we have two distinct series revolving around a ginger-haired killer doll named Chucky. The whole convoluted mess begs one simple question: Does the 2019 Child’s Play remake need to exist?
Child’s Play Synopsis
The core of 2019 Child’s Play remake’s plot pretty much follows the 1988 film. A single mother gets her kid a doll for his birthday, the doll kills people, the kid tries to warn people about the doll, people think the kid is crazy, and chaos ensues. As I’ve said previously, the big problem for most remakes is finding the fine line between honoring the source without being a carbon copy of the original film. And if you’ve seen the trailers there is a major divergence in Chucky’s origin that has some fans a little sore.
“This is for Tupac.”
Chucky is no longer a psychotic serial killer’s soul trapped in a doll, but instead, it’s a corrupted A.I. in a ‘smart’ toy. This choice that strips away some of the character built around Chucky and that’s a shame, but there is one ace in the hole the film has that partially negates this issue (I’ll get to that in a moment). This also leads to the new film’s main themes of technology intertwined in our daily lives, the isolation that can present, and how such integration can lead to disastrous problems.
These are some heady ideas that unfortunately don’t get as fleshed out as they should have. I applaud the film for trying something new and topical. Sometimes though, simpler is better when it comes to a horror film’s plot. If the script had distilled everything down and got these themes a little more focused it would’ve been a major benefit.
“If they don’t let us play, they all go away.”
Since the story does sag at times its good news that the cast can keep it propped up. Gabriel Bateman plays Andy who is aged up a few years and has his own issues. Moving to a new apartment and being socially awkward Andy is isolated finding solace in his smartphone. Bateman does a decent job conveying all the different emotions Andy has while dealing with Chucky. The rest of the 2019 Child’s Play remake is a somewhat mixed bag. Aubrey Plaza as always is enjoyable, but her typical snarky personality doesn’t seem to mesh with being a mom. I honestly at times felt like she was still in her early 20’s by the way she carried herself. It’s always great seeing Brian Tyree Henry who after having an amazing year in 2018 (seriously, he was everywhere!) is continuing to turn in solid work.
And while I didn’t mind the other child actors in the film it seemed like the story was trying to build a kids club to fight the bad guy in the final act. Whether they were trying to riff on or ride off the success of similar characters in other films/TV series (i.e. It, Stranger Things) I do not know. It’s unfortunate that the secondary antagonists of Shane and the apartment handyman lack any real development and seem to only be in the film as a means to up the kill count.
Now we come to probably the best aspect of the film. Mark Hamill is fantastic as the new voice of Chucky. It’s always tough to take over an iconic horror role especially after someone with immense talent already put their stamp on it (Just ask Jackie Earle Haley). Brad Dourif has always been a talented actor and his voice will always be synonymous with Chucky. With what they were doing with Chucky in this film they needed someone who could sound almost childlike at times. That isn’t exactly in Brad Dourif’s wheelhouse, unfortunately. Hamill’s voice work is pitch perfect and thankfully it’s not just a riff on his “Joker” voice. His inflection can make Chucky utterly innocent one minute and completely horrifying the next. This helps add personality after it was stripped away by the change in Chucky’s origin.
Lars Klevberg has crafted a fun film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and has fun riffing on its premise. I’m glad that the original series will be continuing with a Chucky TV series, but this film was a real treat. If they could figure out an interesting story worth telling I’d love to hear Hamill return to this role!
Overall Score 3.5 out of 5