Child’s Play is a reboot of the classic 1988 horror movie of the same name but unfortunately, the title is the only thing that this remake shares with its predecessor. The poster and the trailer for this movie boasts about it coming from the “producers of IT” and that translates to “kids + comedy = not very scary”. One of these producers should have told the writer and director that violence does not equate to horror, if you were expecting a movie with either mood or jump scares, prepare to be disappointed.
To recap, the original film starred Brad Douif as a serial killer named Charles Lee Ray who before dying, transfers his soul to a toy doll called a “Good Guy” by using some voodoo magic. This doll is then sold in a back street alley to a single, working mother who gives it to her 6 year-old son Andy on his birthday, but once Charles aka Chucky starts to kill, Andy is suspected and implicated in the crimes as his height and footprints match the doll’s. Unfortunately in this remake there’s no Charles Lee Ray or Brad Dourif, what we have instead is a downtrodden and disgruntled employee in a Vietnam factory who removes the safety protocols from a smart toy called a “Buddi” which in turn makes the doll into a killer. This Buddi doll is returned to a store because it’s “eyes turn red” but the shopkeeper, a single, working mother, gives it to her 13 year-old son Andy. Oh wow, what an update
This idea of “hacking” or reprogramming rather than the spirit of a serial killer makes the plot much less interesting. The motivations of a killer versus a robot without programming boundaries are poles apart in creating an enticing and original storyline. The former was intriguing back in 1988 but the latter in 2019 isn’t; a robot gone rogue isn’t exactly fresh, especially since we’ve been warned about the perils of robotic technology since the mid-to-late twentieth century.
Since the plot is basically a robot gone wrong, this sadly isn’t an exploration of what makes someone or something a killer, unless you take the scene where Chucky watches Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 to mean “violent content makes people violent” (which is in very poor taste considering the original movie was blamed and banned after the murder of Jamie Bulger). This film doesn’t even explore the idea that a robot who is without the boundaries or limitations of programming would actually be “better” or more human than the usual mindless drones (a la I, Robot) it’s just another pile of analogue dung written by a technophobe shitting on the digital, connected generation. Instead of the Good Guys we now have BUDDis spelled with a lowercase “i” – oh my, how clever – not. This anti-smart technology storyline is lazy and predictable and more importantly it doesn’t make much sense.
The first problem we the audience encounter is the fact that Andy wants a new smartphone for his birthday not a doll (like Andy in the 1988 movie wanted). In addition, since Andy is now 13 instead of 6, once he gets a doll (especially since it looks like a preteen kid’s toy) he shouldn’t really care at all, let alone interact with it. As soon as he receives it however, he all of a sudden stops pining for a phone, the cracked screen is no longer an issue apparently. The fact that Andy is now 3 years away from being an adult, lines like “Aunt Maggie was a real bitch and got what she deserved” (which sounded odd coming from a 6 year-old) are no longer present. In fact the whole “I don’t believe your tales, it’s your imagination” concept falls flat on its arse.
Child’s Play is directed by Lars Klevberg (someone who’s only directed one movie which I haven’t seen) from a screenplay by Tyler Burton Smith (someone who’s written a couple of video games I haven’t played) with music by Bear McCreary (someone who composed the score to Godzilla: King Of The Monsters, a film I never want to see again). Basically the direction is shit, the screenplay is shitty and the music is shite, and that’s the main problem with all this crap. Gather together a group of average “artists” and you’ll get average art (or below average as is the case here).
The cast aren’t much better. Gabriel Bateman plays the too-old and now deaf Andy Barclay. Bateman is actually a decent actor (as is his sister) but he’s not given much to work with here. Mark Hamill plays Chucky (he apparently voiced Chucky in Robot Chicken – which means this is some of the laziest casting in recent years). Because of this, there’s a scene in which Andy wants to call his Buddi doll “Han Solo”, a very poor meta “joke” that is two winces away from being full-blown cringe. Once you see the scene in which the command of “Han Solo” is ignored by the smart toy and it instead calls itself “Chucky”, you realise how little sense this film makes. Yes, this scene may be a comment about automated customer service phone lines where your commands aren’t properly heard, but weren’t we supposed to be satirising smart speakers and the “internet of things” not a piece of technology originating from the time period of the original movie?
Aubrey Plaza plays Karen Barclay, a shit mother who seems to be more concerned with getting her end away than protecting, nurturing, or believing her son. There’s also Brian Tyree Henry as Detective Mike Norris, an overweight cop who only goes to see his mom in order to eat (an overweight cop who loses all composure, tact, and restraint when his literal meal-ticket is murdered). Then there’s the wide-range of Andy’s teenaged “friends”: a fat one, a black one, and a girl… wow, the diversity! Either that or the producers wanted another “Loser’s Club” because you know, it worked in their other movie. And finally we have Tim Matheson as Henry Kaslan, CEO of Kaslan Corp (the makers of the Buddi doll) and Tim almost literally phones-in his performance via FaceTime.
Don Mancini, the writer of the original, essentially disowned this movie before it was even made, although it could be argued that he ruined his own creation by turning it into a crap comedy. His original movie is undoubtedly a classic but the franchise slowly became a bit of a mess so having a reboot was possibly a good idea. What’s strange is that by abandoning Mancini, MGM, the rights-holders of the franchise and the studio that brought us the original, have made an inferior film that will need to be rebooted again.
It’s strange that in 31 years, the latex doll hasn’t improved; his expressions are no better, the effects are no more realistic (in fact the flayed skin of Chucky’s first victim looks very poor indeed). Nothing has been revamped here, not a single aspect of this movie is superior to the original so what was the point? Oh, and why is he called Chucky again? Nobody at the studio knows or cares… hey, let’s just get something well-known so we can cash-in by remaking it with no feeling and no soul… kinda like Charles Lee Ray… who’s he again?
Tom Holland, the director of the original, gave us some genuine scares, he made the scene where the doll fell on the floor and rolled under the furniture tense, he made the shots where the doll ran past in the background scary but nothing here compares. The only scene that works is where Chucky’s victims’ head is scalped by a garden tiller and his pate along with the hair lands on a garden gnome. That actually made me laugh and the editing added to the hilarity, a bit like Final Destination 4 where the white supremacist is dragged whilst “Why Can’t We Be Friends” plays.
The main flaw with Child’s Play is that a simple case of programming turns one doll into a crazed killer. Buddi can control a number of household gadgets which help in his murderous rage and this is fine until you see him unlock a bog-standard seatbelt in a driverless car. Not only that but Chucky, an inferior model (a Buddi 1) can control future models (the Buddi 2) but how? Basically what we’re told is that smart toys who aren’t programmed any differently can receive signals and do the bidding of the one who is programmed differently. I thought the microchip hack was the only way these dolls could kill? Surely the Buddi 2’s programming shouldn’t allow them to do the things Chucky can? But alas, there’s no Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws Of Robotics here, just some daft plot that merges the Good Guy with Hal-9000 without any of the intelligence or horror of either.
To add to this moronic story, we have friends who one minute don’t believe Andy but a couple of minutes later exclaim “he was right!” and follow someone they’ve known for two or three days into certain death. Given the annoying and unsympathetic characters, you want everybody to die in the worst way possible and the fact that some of the characters survive only adds to the disappointment that’s felt as the credits roll.
I also have to point out that there’s a touch of false inclusivity in this flick: firstly there’s the black Buddi 2, although there’s also a bear Buddi 2 and unless that’s a reference to him being gay, nobody really cares what variants are on offer. Then there’s the line with Andy saying about his friend (who’s female) “I’m gonna follow her” for touch of fake feminism. And yet in the midst of this newly fake-woke Hollywood creation, there’s the opening which is set in Vietnam because we wouldn’t want to say workers are mistreated in a Chinese factory, oh no. We wouldn’t want to affect sales in one of Hollywood’s biggest overseas markets would we? How very progressive… not.
There’s a scene in this shit-fest where Kaslan says in one of the Buddi commercials: “Happiness is about more than just entertainment” and he’s right. Entertainment makes you happy only if you engage with it, if you feel for the characters, if you believe the setting, if you feel emotion such as laughter, sadness, or shock. But with this Child’s Play reboot, we have the worst kind of entertainment which will fail to make anyone happy, especially when you realise how much you’ve forked out for tickets to see this reboot which needs booting right up the arse.