Child’s Play (2019)

“You can’t hurt people.”

The latest revival in the recent string of rehashes and remakes and reboots being thoughtlessly spewed out of Hollywood, Child’s Play admirably attempts to modernize and update the 1988 original. Having said that though, it’s also missing the trademark and sadistic sense of fun. This is a more serious version of the same story, or at least one that tries to be more mature, and while it’s silly in spurts and has been well-made, the film doesn’t find a space to carve out as its own either. Similar to 2015’s Poltergeist and 2018’s HalloweenChild’s Play isn’t a bad movie, but it is an unnecessary and redundant one. Few films and experiences are scarier the second time around.

Andy (Gabriel Bateman) doesn’t have many friends in the apartment block. He’s a loner and the shy type until his absent-minded mom Karen (Aubrey Plaza) gives him a much coveted and hyper cognizant Buddi doll as his big birthday gift. Andy names him Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill), the two bond over board games and story time, and establish a friendship worth killing for in the menacing eyes of the evil-spirited Chucky. Child’s Play is actually pretty bland and routine during these opening moments, and since the relationship dynamics here are so weak, it’s pretty unconvincing when the serial killing doll goes off the rails and on the loose.

Andy’s newfound human friends (Beatrice Kitsos and Ty Consiglio) have no real depth or personality or arc. Detective Mike Norris (Brian Tyree Henry) lives down the hall with his mother, looks at Karen with a glint behind his eye, and rushes to judgement without first dusting for fingerprints. Their are some stomach churning, visceral, gruesome on-screen kills and a few of the serviceable gags you expect from a movie this absurd. And yet, while Child’s Play isn’t afraid to brandish a chef’s knife, the uneven incisions it makes don’t cut deep enough or often enough. At some points it drives the knife deep and twists the handle with a maniacal grin yet more often than not the story simply traces the skin with the back of the blade, teasing us without much follow through.

I wouldn’t necessarily call director Lars Klevberg’s film a standard reboot, nor is it a carbon copy remake. This is a reimagining of sorts, somewhat lazily repurposing old script parts to update a surprisingly timely cautionary tale. In this Child’s Play, Chucky might as well be thought of as an animatronic Amazon Alexa speaker. He’s all powerful, omnipresent, comforting, feeding on the dependency and the invasive attachment that so many of us casually take part in and openly invite into our homes. The picture is almost slasher science fiction in that way, like a palpable HAL 9000 with angry red eyes to match, and that makes me wish Child’s Play was less nostalgic for a time when children clamored for the toy aisle and had been more realistically molded to the modern landscape where kids would rather ingest information through a screen than interact with a terrifying looking cabbage patch doll.

“It’s kinda stupid.”

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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