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“Child’s Play” Remakes Chucky For The Digital Age

There’s an internal struggle going on within the remake of Child’s Play. No, this isn’t existential crisis or indie bent to the horror classic, but a war of tone. Yes, in rebooting Chucky, the filmmakers have mixed a traditional fright flick with a very strange, almost comedic, take on the material. It doesn’t really work, but when it’s being weird, it’s actually a fair amount of fun. Had that offbeat tone been stuck to, this would have been a real pleasant surprise, though sadly it becomes less and less of a factor as the movie wears on. It’s ultimately second rate horror, even if it’s not the disaster it was shaping up to be, just going by the marketing.

The film is a modern day update of the original 1988 horror outing Child’s Play. Here, instead of a doll being possessed by the soul of a serial killer, Chucky (voice of Mark Hamill) is a WIFI enabled toy, one connected by the cloud to a whole host of other gadgets by the company who makes “Buddi.” When one is accidentally shipped out with a murderous glitch, Karen Barclay (Aubrey Plaza) ends up gifting her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) with something she’ll come to regret. At first, Buddi, who renames himself Chucky, is just a somewhat self aware toy. Then, it comes to be realized by Andy that Chucky is determined to kill anyone who he thinks prevents them from being together. Initially, there’s some laughs drawn from that, but once the body count rises and the doll starts to have a bizarre master plan, it turns generic. Before long, it’s up to Andy, Karen, and Detective Mike Norris (Brian Tyree Henry) to try and stop Chucky before it’s too late. Lars Klevberg directs a script by Tyler Burton Smith. Supporting players include Carlease Burke, Ty Consiglio, Beatrice Kitsos, David Lewis, Tim Matheson, Trent Redekop, and more. Brendan Uegama provides the cinematography, while the score is from Bear McCreary.

There’s a lot going on here, tonally. Child’s Play is all over the place, almost being a satire at the start, or at least an overt comedy, before becoming a lackluster slasher by the end. Truth be told, the title is just being used because it’s a known Intellectual Property. The story is largely different, so fans of the IP may cut both ways with this one. Horror fans in general will likely see it as a missed opportunity. There needed to be more weirdness, actually. Leaning in and embracing that tone would have made this film stand out. Even if it was just as a bizarre Frankenstein of a movie, that would have been better than the mishmash we ended up with. Klevberg’s direction is all over the place, but then again, the screenplay by Smith is too.

Thankfully, this is a better movie than the Trailers hinted at. That looked like a high tech mess. There’s some of that, but it doesn’t come into play until more than midway through. In fact, at first, there’s an overt sense of ridiculousness. Had that vibe continued throughout, this could have, at least, been a cult classic in the making. It’s not as straight up aiming for jokes as the recent Chucky outings, but it’s definitely taking a very different approach than the original did. However, it just can’t keep up the momentum. Sadly, that’s when you notice how wasted talent like Hamill, Henry, and Plaza are, especially with the latter two being given no actual character development. The seams show and it’s not pretty. The high tech aspects make no sense (in this world, there’s apparently only one company that makes every single product), while the gore is sillier than intended during some of the kills. It’s just more evidence that one single tone was needed, and preferably the tongue in cheek one.

Starting tomorrow, fans of the franchise will be in store for something different when the Child’s Play remake opens. Some will like the new spin on Chucky, while others will see the series as having been bastardized by technology. Is the movie good? No, definitely not. Is it entertaining? More than it probably has any right to be. As such, the film could be a bit of a guilty pleasure to some. I can’t recommend it, but it hardly is the disaster some were dreading. It simply is another necessary remake in a long line of them. This one at least tries to be different, even if it can’t fully commit to that ideal…

Child’s Play hits theaters this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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