In a world of unnecessary reboots and remakes, it was simply a matter of time before someone decided to remake Child’s Play. But the over-the-top nature of the original makes it hard to imagine how a reboot in 2019 could strike box office gold in a similar fashion. The many adventures of Chucky feel more like a one-time phenomenon as opposed to something that can be tapped into and repeated. Immediately, director Lars Klevberg realizes this and takes this iteration of Chucky down a different path to becoming evil. Though it is updated for modern times, it is also one that is a bit well-worn. Thankfully it is effectively tied into some of the later scenes and provides opportunities for some of the more tense moments in the film.
As for Chucky, the doll itself is a huge problem. Not in an “it’s all CGI” way because practical effects were definitely used for the film. Rather its overall design. Though I am very familiar with the original series, I would not consider myself a fan in any way. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen a single Child’s Play film all the way through in one sitting. But even as a newcomer to the series, Chucky’s design always felt off in an unsettling and annoying way. Like the uncanny valley of murderous dolls. Worse, it never had a look of innocence. Even in its normal state, it seemed to have a sinister look and feel to it. Aside from the design, the personality of the doll feels muted for virtually the entire runtime. This is especially disappointing considering the supremely talented Mark Hamill is providing the voice work. Everyone knows what he is capable of, but if not given the right script or opportunities to establish a character, it doesn’t matter who is hired to read the lines. It is not until moments very late in the film (and the credits) that Hamill’s voice starts to shine. But it feels too little, too late at that point.
Gabriel Bateman is serviceable as Andy Barclay, the kid who receives Chucky as a gift from his mother (Aubrey Plaza). While he doesn’t do much to break out of the typical child actor mold, he also never drifts into completely annoying territory which is all too common for this type of role. Though no fault of his own, some of the issue with his performance is that he is asked to play a 13-year old who has befriended a toy doll. While there are some updated components to the doll that make this somewhat believable and the story attempts to address why he may gravitate to the toy, it is still a 13-year old playing with a doll. And that doesn’t work nearly as effectively as a kid half that age would.
The adults in the film (primarily Aubrey Plaza and Brian Tyree Henry) get some screen time and make the most of it. But it feels like they could have been much better utilized. The film teeters back and forth between involving the adults and focusing on Andy and his friends. It never commits fully to either one and instead attempts to blend the two together to varying degrees of success. There are a few moments later in the film where the kids band together and become the central focus in what seems like a build towards a kids vs. Chucky battle. But instead of this throwback to a staple of 1980’s movie plots, we revert back to the norm of just Andy, the doll, and the adults.
Child’s Play has some moments where it leans heavily into the camp. From Chucky’s lines to the heavy-R gore, there are moments that horror fans and general audiences both can enjoy. But there aren’t enough of these instances to tip the scales to full-on, tongue-in-cheek humor like its B-movie slasher predecessor.