Norwegian Filmmaker Lars Klevberg Re-Imagines The Iconic Killer Doll Chucky In A New Take On “Child’s Play”. While True Fans Of Chucky Will Be Skeptical About It. It’s Actually A Slick, Creative & Fun Horror Comedy.
A staple of the horror genre, “Child’s Play” movies have been scaring audiences for over three decades now, spawning seven films from 1988 to 2017, but the fantastic new re-imagining “Child’s Play” ingeniously reinvents the killer doll. These films are still entertaining (including the two direct to video sequels) and sometimes they’re smarter than you’d expect.
While the horror genre is one of the most rebooted genres at the movies, it’s not surprising that a studio would want to reboot the franchise for a younger generation. Although it is odd that it’s been done without the influence of Don Mancini, the original creator, and it’s even odder that it has kind of very little in similarities with the original premise.
“Child’s Play” is a slicker, more creative reboot by smartly re-imagining the scenario in a way that totally differentiates it from the still-going Don Mancini series. If given the chance this “Child’s Play” has a good shot at scaring a whole new generation, and it’s far better than any of us expected or even wanted it to be.
I think that the new version of Child’s Play would perform better with a different title, or some kind of play with words instead of using the original trilogy’s name. While the basic plot is different enough from the original “Child’s Play” that it could be its own film, and because it carries the original title a lot of purists will go in hating it, especially with the marketing of the terribly cut trailer. I surely walked in expecting to hate it, honestly this “Child’s Play” is a lot of fun and is well done thanks to Norwegian filmmaker Lars Klevberg.
In this “Child’s Play”, the Good Guy doll is replaced with a Buddi doll. The original Good Guy doll, that was possessed by serial killer Charles Lee Ray, was a send-up of 1980s commercialism, an era when parents would practically kill to get their hands on a My Buddy doll at Christmastime (which looked just like Chucky. I had one as a kid). The new Chucky, a Buddi Doll, hews closer to modern trends being similar to an Alexa-type device.
Buddi can control all of your devices, help you with your homework, turn on the AC, change the TV channel . . . and make ground beef of your enemies. Instead of a satanic ritual, Chucky becomes deliberately programmed to be evil by a pissed-off sweatshop worker. It’s a silly premise, especially in the fact that the character is never referred to again. I’d rather have the original transformation of a serial killer using magic to transfer his mind into a doll, but the new version more or less works.
Here’s where the new “Child’s Play” departs from its 1988 predecessor and is rather clever in it’s approach as Chucky’s software allows him to learn about his owner. Chucky learns Andy’s likes and dislikes, his relationships around him. Chucky can even take video and make audio recordings. Chucky loves Andy, and he will do anything to protect him.
“Child’s Play” introduces us to teenaged Andy (Gabriel Bateman “Lights Out” and “Annabelle”), who has just moved into town with his single mother Karen (Aubrey Plaza). He’s not coping well with the move, so when a customer comes in with a seemingly defective Buddi doll Karen takes it for herself. Even though Andy is too old for dolls, even fancy animatronic talking ones she tells him to enjoy it.
Andy starts palling around with the Buddi doll, that he names Chucky (voiced by “Star Wars” Mark Hamill), and Andy teaches it everything he knows. However, since he’s a teenager trying to make friends with kids and bullies within his apartment building, he ultimately teaches Chucky about violence and hatred and fear. Chucky gets it in his head that in order to preserve his friendship with Andy, and make Andy happy, he needs to dispatch everything or everyone that gets in the way of Chucky and Andy’s friendship. And if that means feeding someone into a lawnmower, then that’s what he will have to do.
While it’s not a subtle message, the rest of the film is in your face too as director Lars Klevberg’s “Child’s Play” is fast-paced, gory and an inventive horror movie. While it’s a smart re-imagining, it doesn’t push itself to be as smart as it could be, but it’s about as smart as it wants to be. Two of the kills are inventive if not feels like they have been done before, but their fun and gory which gives the movie a rollicking funhouse sensibility.
Gabriel Bateman as Andy is a stand-out. He is the right mix of many emotions from being embarrassed by the doll, then adapting to the doll and being scared of the doll or even bringing human emotion that doesn’t deal with Chucky. Brian Tyree Henry is very likable and funny who is a detective that frequently visits his mom who lives next to Andy and Karen.
One of the most unexpected pleasures about the Child’s Play reboot is watching Aubrey Plaza at work. I absolutely adore her, she has one of the most delightful on-screen auras and though her role as Karen is not overtly comedic as most of her roles, her easy charm lends itself beautifully to the film’s playful tone.
If there are any major hurdles to overcome it’s the fact that Brad Dourif doesn’t reprise his voice role that was so iconic as Chucky. If you’re going to replace him with anyone, Luke Skywalker himself Mark Hamill is a genius idea. Hamill’s voice acting has always been amazing including his iconic voice work as the Joker In “Batman: The Animated Series”. Hamill’s Chucky doesn’t have the hilarious vulgarity of Brad Dourif’s or the single-minded murderous glee of original Chucky. As Chucky he’s both funny and oddly sympathetic, while Chucky isn’t evil, he’s just been badly programmed. Although he eventually goes full evil, there’s a pathos to the new Chucky that even the original couldn’t claim to have. Don’t be surprised if you wind up feeling a little bad for him by the end.
Chucky has been given some new powers, so he doesn’t resort to the same old forms of having to just stab or strangle people all the time. Chucky’s ability to control electronic devices around him makes Chucky more god-like at the tip of his finger. Now he can let power tools and heating systems do the dirty work for him while he looms in the background.
While it’s not hard to spot the victims on screen. “Child’s Play” builds to a satisfying climax but it still has it’s downfalls as it feels rushed and ends to simply and quickly. Unfortunately by the time he finally unleashes that murderous rage the film is almost over and we have to start wrapping everything up.
Tonally, director Lars Klevberg tries to balance what’s between the original film and the campier sequels, and it works well. Running at a tight eighty-eight minutes, director Lars Klevberg does a great job of slowly ramping up the crazy. Once the carnage kicks in you have to admire it’s balls-to-the-wall R rating. The movie is suspenseful and funny in just the right places, as it actually all works in Lars Klevberg’s boldly stylized vision. The colors are bright with reds and blues, and the rooms are lit like the Metropolitan Opera house.
Sure high-tech consumer robots are great and all, but for me they just don’t have the same creepy impact as a plastic doll that moves on its own. With that said you can’t go in with resentment at another classic remake because this one is actually good. If you can just put aside your love for the original films and see it as its own, this “Child’s Play” is a fun and slick little horror film.
GRADE: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5)