Child's Play (2019)
Next in 2019’s seemingly never-ending parade of reboots, re-imaginings, and revisitations is a refresh of the horror comedy classic Child’s Play. Though this version adds little to Chucky’s mythology and actually removes some of the juicier bits of his legend, it also charmingly refuses to take itself too seriously.
Certain scenes in movies perfectly encapsulate the tone and intention of the filmmaker. We get that moment just shy of the midway point in the new Child’s Play. Andy (Gabriel Bateman) has just made two new friends after a move, and the trio are watching a movie along with Andy’s latest toy acquisition, Chucky. They’re watching 1986’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 in all its gory glory. They all laugh with delight at the cartoonish violence and scalpings as Chop-Top and the Sawyer family slash their way through a gaggle of teenagers. The human kids in the room say (I’m paraphrasing here), “That’s not how scalping works” and continue to yuck it up. Chucky watches this whole situation with wide-eyed wonder. Not only is he soaking in the amusement at this mayhem, he’s also incapable of understanding the difference between movie violence and actual harm to humans. To our luck, Chucky exists only on screen and he’s able to pick up where Leatherface leaves off. Later, when Chucky presents a scalped face that contains both eyes and teeth, we are now the audience howling with laughter at the fact that facial skin doesn’t really work that way. Don’t say Child’s Play didn’t explicitly warn you – this is a silly movie.
The Child’s Play remake mimics the 1988 original in a few important ways, but completely ignores it in others. Chucky is a killer doll who belongs to and turns on a young boy named Andy. The doll’s design is generally the same, complete with striped shirt and overalls. However, this updated version of Chucky is often obviously CGI, rather than maintaining the charms of the original practical effects of the puppet. The most marked change from one version to the next is the root of Chucky’s evil ways. Back in the ’80s, Chucky was possessed by the soul of a serial killer which turned him into, well, a serial killer doll. In this version, a disgruntled factory worker removed all the safety programming from the doll’s AI. This shouldn’t necessarily make any doll evil, but somehow Chucky gets there.
The weakened, or at least less natively threatening, villain might have lent itself to being a less entertaining horror film, and it is, but not to the degree you may fear. The film’s refusal to take itself seriously adds to the fun of the ridiculous premise. For the most part, it’s a silly romp. Aubrey Plaza has fun playing the sarcastic, caring mom. Mark Hamill is perfectly cast as the voice of Chucky. And even the child actors are all perfectly serviceable as Andy’s friends.
The new Child’s Play isn’t perfect, but it’s a darn fun example of why we should give these reboots a fair chance.