Child's Play (2019) Jun 24, 2019 10:55:05 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jun 24, 2019 10:55:05 GMT -5
Child's Play (2019)
Directed by: Lars Klevberg
Directed by: Lars Klevberg
Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman, right) plays a game with Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill) in the remake of Child's Play.
The Child's Play series has been comedic more often than its been purely horror, and this remake doubles down in the right way. It adds more humor to a premise that hasn't necessarily aged gracefully, and gives it the added thematic boost of looking at the (exaggerated) perils of AI, mass consumerism, and a society overrun by gadgets. Sprinkled with enough good-faith from director Lars Klevberg (whose film, Polaroid, was pulled back in 2017 and is still unreleased in America) and writer Tyler Burton Smith, this remake is far superior than the likes of this year's Pet Sematary, but not quite as impressively updated and transformative as It, although it finds a workable middle-ground.
I'll admit that I wasn't the most excited to watch a remake of Child's Play in theaters, especially given that Don Mancini — writer of the first four "Chucky" movies and director of Seed of Chucky, Curse of Chucky, and Cult of Chucky — has worked so diligently to bring the character back to life with two very recent direct-to-video/streaming installments. Mancini even has a TV series in the works. This remake is a slap in the face to someone who has worked hard to reinstate a quality-standard after a couple of wayward sequels, not to mention getting it back in touch with its horror roots and once again evoking a chilling atmosphere. However, Klevberg and Smith manage to modernize the material to make the premise appear at least somewhat practical, if not relatable, in 2019, highlighting an interconnected society of technological advancements that people invite into their homes and willingly let control everything from the TV to the vacuum cleaner. If Child's Play is the closest we'll ever get to a killer Amazon Alexa movie, consider me smitten.
The film follows Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman), a 12-year-old boy with a struggling single mom, Karen (Aubrey Plaza), who works at a local department store. Living in an apartment complex with his mother, cat, and his mother's smarmy boyfriend, who too often drops by, Andy is lonely and without any friends, which leads to his mother taking home a returned Buddi doll from a customer at the store. Buddi is a far more advanced toy than his Good Guy Doll counterparts. Buddi is a product of Kaslan Industries, an Amazon-esque company that manufactures just about any form of technology you can think of, and Buddi — a walking, talking, customizable doll — can be synced to control various appliances in your home, all while serving as your best friend.
What both Karen and Andy don't know is that the particular Buddi doll that they have in their home was one greatly altered in the Vietnamese factory by a disgruntled employee, who disabled the violence inhibitors and safety features on the doll before committing suicide. At first, Buddi, who takes on the name Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill, the first time the character isn't voiced by Brad Dourif), seems normal, if with a few glitches. But his clingy nature towards Andy goes a few steps too far, when he starts to harm or even kill anyone who makes Andy upset or stands in the way of their friendship. Andy links up with two neighborhood teens (Beatrice Kitsos, Ty Consiglio) to play with the doll, but when they watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 together, Chucky gets some sick ideas.
Unlike in the 1988 Child's Play, where a serial killer named Charles Lee Ray was cornered in a toy-store and transferred his soul into a Good Guy Doll just before he was gunned down, this Chucky takes time to embrace evilness. Although ultimately without the necessary safety protocol of a typical Buddi doll, Chucky is greatly influenced by things he observes, such as Andy dicing vegetables with a sharp knife or watching a violent horror movie. Karen is often too distracted by her slimy boyfriend to pay close enough attention, and even friendly neighbors, Detective Mike (Brian Tyree Henry) and his mother (Carlease Burke) are none the wiser.
You have to love Aubrey Plaza and her deadpan charm. I had to do a double-take when the 34-year-old was cast as Miss Barclay in the film, for her frequent comedic ventures initially make her seem like an odd choice for the role. Nonetheless, Plaza is strong here. Her reactive facial expressions coupled with her overall temperament, especially when working at the department store, essentially personify the phrase "ugh, fine" in a manner that's wholly likable. Gabriel Bateman is a notably different Andy Barclay compared to the character Alex Vincent effectively portrayed. Being that Andy is older here, and a product of a generation defined by technological overload, he is savvier than the naive and innocent Andy of the past films, and Bateman does a fine job at highlighting this — it fits the tone of the film and doesn't immediately write him into the role of the victim.
The updated Chucky sure is ugly, however. He's a sleek, rubber-faced pint-sized doll that lacks the uneasy amalgam of cuteness and fright that the Chucky of yesterday so nicely encompassed. Oddly enough, I thought the Chucky of the two most recent installments looked a little off, so to speak. It's an odd thing to note that despite the advancements in CGI, a killer doll looks more unrealistic and eerie than it ever has. Such results should motivate movie studios to try and go back to the days when real dolls were used and brought to life through animatronics and other practical wizardry, but we're also talking about a time when a studio thought it'd be wise to remake a series that's still going strong.
At roughly 90 minutes, Child's Play is a swell modernization of the now 31 year old material. Its updates in look and appearance may fall short, but its emphasis on gore, scares, and in-the-moment comedy push it over the edge of being enjoyable. Throw some credit to producers Seth Grahame-Smith and David Katzenberg, both of whom helped make It possible, as they found a director/writer who took a questionable remake and made it work by dipping into the past and present with mostly satisfying results.
Starring: Gabriel Bateman, Aubrey Plaza, Brian Tyree Henry, Beatrice Kitsos, Ty Consiglio, David Lewis, and Carlease Burke. Voiced by: Mark Hamill. Directed by: Lars Klevberg.