★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Chucky is back! Well, sorta.
Directed by Lars Klevberg
Inspired by the Cabbage Patch Doll sensation of the mid ’80s, Don Mancini wrote a dark and somewhat comedic script that highlighted the negative effects of consumerism on American children. Child’s Play was released in 1988, an R-rated horror movie depicting a little boy’s doll going on a murderous rampage. Earning three times its budget at the American box offices alone insured Chucky his own franchise, one that seemed to be trickling to a close with the last two installments not receiving a theatrical release, until this 2019 reboot.
Andy (Gabriel Bateman) and his mom (Aubrey Plaza) have just moved sans male family figure into a new apartment. The problem is that Andy isn’t good at making friends and he spends way too much time by himself haunting the building’s hallways. In the hopes that it’ll cheer him up, Mom gives him the early birthday present of a malfunctioning nearly-obsolete robot pal. Gee, thanks, Mom. After imprinting the boy into its little artificial heart, Chucky adopts an “If I can’t have him, no one can mentality” offing anything and anyone he sees as an impediment to Andy’s happiness or friendship.
The new take on Chucky, not as a doll possessed by the soul of an evil serial murderer, but as an electronic device, one that can come with all the scary worst-case scenarios of AI gaining sentience scenarios, has potential. At the heart of all horror is an attempt to tap into the deep fears of viewers; a reminder that they are at the mercy of the manufacturers of the technology that they rely on for everything from communication to transportation could be a very well-timed jolt. But, this is a Chucky movie, not the next Exorcist, so let’s temper expectations and just look forward to seeing a creepy doll run around stabbing people with a kitchen knife.
The makers of the film were limited in their choices for death sequences by licensing issues. MGM still holds the rights to the first Child’s Play, but not to the sequels, so they were not allowed to make any kill too similar to most of the series’ predecessors and had to adjust one of the planned scenes after being challenged by Universal Studios. Good Guy dolls are now Buddis, walking Cabbage Patch Alexa devices; they will be your kid’s best friend and can call him an Uber. For the first time, Chucky is voiced not by Brad Dourif, but by voice actor supreme Mark Hamill. Dourif, and co-star Jennifer Tilly, have spoken out about this reboot, allying themselves with the creator Don Mancini who had declined an executive producer credit but had been offered no creative control.
The behind-the-scenes drama isn’t obvious to the final product, which probably could have used some to wake up this hum-drum flick. 2019’s Chucky isn’t evil, but just broken tech. Rather than gleefully cracking wise while ending the lives of the people around it, Chucky just performs actions it feels are necessary. It genuinely doesn’t understand what’s going on, can’t comprehend murder because it’s a robot. This is the film’s biggest detriment. Without that malicious intent, it’s mostly just sad to watch him ruin Andy’s life, like watching Lennie pet a rabbit. Without a real Chucky, Child’s Play is just kind of less fun.
Child’s Play is rated R and is currently available in theatrical wide release. Here’s the latest trailer for you to decide before you go to the theater to catch it: