Child's Play Review
When the original Child’s Play arrived in cinemas, it played on the mania that surrounded dolls like the Cabbage Patch Kids and Teddy Ruxpin; must have toys of the moment that drove parents over-the-edge in desperation to buy them for their kids. The reboot attempts to change things up by playing on our fears of technology through a new Buddi manufactured and distributed by a powerful, Amazon-style company. It sounds good on paper, but it’s a poorly executed idea that sees another film join a growing list of classic horror remakes that have no reason to exist.
Since 1988 we’ve had everything from the Bride of Chucky to the Cult of Chucky, a series of seven films held close to the hearts of fans of the little red-haired psychopath. He's become an enduring pop culture icon and even made an appearance in Spielberg’s last film, Ready Player One. 31 years on United Artists have decided now is the time to reboot and to start all over again. Meanwhile his creator, Don Mancini, is in the midst of creating a completely separate TV series. Fans can never complain there hasn’t been enough Chucky, but they might struggle to accept director Lars Klevberg’s version.
Looking like a strange descendant of the Team America puppets, the Buddi doll is the hottest toy around, made and distributed by a huge tech company called Kaslan. Their products dominate the market, including the home of single mother Karen (a poorly cast Aubrey Plaza) and her 13-year-old phone-obsessed son, Andy (Gabriel Bateman). They’ve not long arrived in town, which means Andy has no friends (similar to the original) and despite being too old for dolls his mother brings home a new Buddi called Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill) to keep him company. One thing leads to another and before you know it the knives are out and some serious leg-slashing commences.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine the seeds of Chucky’s (no apologies made) return were inspired by the success of Black Mirror. The idea of a conglomerate creating a cloud-connected doll that inadvertently terrorises your neighbourhood sounds like something Charlie Brooker would cook up. Except, Tyler Burton Smith’s script fails to explore the danger posed by the concept and the horror suffers terribly as a result. The reason for Chucky’s technological corruption is revealed within the first few minutes (again, like the first film) but at the same time it manages to remove any potential threat posed by the Kaslan Corporation.
Given his voice work for the Joker in the animated Batman series, which flitted between sounding both sinister and playful, you would assume Hamill to be a good fit for the new voice of Chucky. Perhaps it’s a combination of the doll's awful re-design and Klevberg’s poor direction, but there isn’t a moment when the tiny ginger maniac looks or sounds remotely threatening. Every film released since 1988 has been more batshit crazy than the last to the point where both the filmmakers and fans revel in its nuttiness. That schlocky style isn’t shared here as the horror is tamely executed for a 15-rated film and much of the humour simply falls flat.
Even with the likes of Plaza and Brian Tyree Henry (reprising the role of Detective Mike Norris) on-board, there isn’t much fun to be had. The technology angle appears to be a good starting point, but may as well not exist, and it’s probably being generous to suggest the film hints towards the way youthful innocence can be so easily distorted by the world around us. The original Child's Play knew what it was and did it well. Klevberg’s remake wants to be more but doesn't know how to do it. There aren’t many redeeming features about this reboot at all, and it’s hard to see it being remembered as fondly as all the others.
Child's Play opens nationwide in UK cinemas on June 21.