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Review: Child’s Play (2019)

Child’s Play (2019)

Directed by: Lars Klevberg

Premise: A remake of the 1988 film. A single mother (Aubrey Plaza) buys her son (Gabriel Bateman) an artificially intelligent doll that synchs with the family’s network and electronic appliances. The doll develops an unhealthy attachment to the boy.

What Works: The 2019 version of Child’s Play is an example of a remake done right. The remake is still germane to the original concept but the filmmakers reimagine the material and make it relevant for the contemporary audience. The original Child’s Play was about a doll that was imbued with the soul of a serial killer and that film came out of a time when tales of occult crime were in the news and children played with toys like Cabbage Patch and My Buddy dolls. The new film reconceives the killer doll as an artificial intelligence; this is the classic children’s toy fused with today’s electronic devices like Alexa and iPhones and 2019’s Child’s Play owes nearly as much to Demon Seed and Westworld as it does to the 1988 original. This is a smart approach and the filmmakers distinguish their movie. It’s still recognizable as Child’s Play—it retains the core idea as well as the vicious dark humor of the original—but this version is a different interpretation that gives the viewer a fresh experience. That is exactly what a remake ought to do. Among the film’s innovations is its reimagining of Chucky, the killer doll. In this version Chucky is the anxieties of the digital age come to life and the filmmakers come up with creative ways of integrating contemporary technology. But as threating as Chucky can be, this version of the character (voiced by Mark Hamill) has a bit of Frankenstein’s monster to him. Chucky is actually kind of pitiful because he just wants to be Andy’s friend but he is unable to grasp the nuances of human behavior and Chucky’s violence comes out of his frustration. 2019’s Child’s Play is also well crafted. The film has some sharp visuals and director Lars Klevberg stages the action quite well. The score by Bear McCreary is also quite effective, especially the main theme which incorporates elements of Joe Renzetti’s 1988 score.

What Doesn’t: One important aspect of this story that the new Child’s Play doesn’t do nearly as well as its predecessor is the pacing. The remake is too direct and reveals too much too soon. Chucky acts out violently very early on in the story. There is no ambiguity about this. Chucky is a killer and rather than discovering the truth along with the characters the audience is stuck waiting for these people to figure out what is so obvious. That creates a credibility problem for the movie. When Chucky begins acting erratic and violent, the only rational decision is to remove the doll’s batteries. It takes an awfully long time and a lot of blood is spilled before the characters get to that point.

Bottom Line: Child’s Play is by no means perfect but this movie is very entertaining. It’s also a smartly conceived remake that is appropriately reverent to the original movie but stands on its own.

Episode: #755 (June 30, 2019)