REVIEW: When ‘Child’s Play’ isn’t trying to be a remake, it’s at its best

If only this hadn’t been called “Child’s Play.”

This new “Child’s Play” basically takes the framework, such as the character names and the iconic doll, and throws the rest out. Instead of using the original concept, with a murderer transferring himself into a doll through voodoo, this new “Child’s Play” goes with an artificial intelligence route.

The movie follows Andy (Gabriel Bateman), a young pre-teen who lives with his mother Karen (Aubrey Plaza). Karen works at a mid-size retailer that sells the new Buddi Dolls, which are toys that can also connect digitally to other electronics, like an Alexa. Karen eventually ends up lucky enough to snag a Buddi doll (voiced by Mark Hamill) through a stroke of luck. However, during its creation, that certain doll unfortunately became defective. As a result, the doll becomes aggressive.

The interesting factor with this film is had it not been a remake, it would likely be picking up more praise. Despite having the same character names and other framework from the 80s flick, this movie really sets itself apart.

While the previous film’s villain was already evil, this one becomes evil over time. Additionally, this movie is much more attached to the concept of technology and having everything in a home connected. For most of the film, it’s easy to wonder why this didn’t just try to be it’s own thing.

Yes, had it used a different name and made some changes to the characters, it would have likely still been called a “Child’s Play,” evil doll rip-off. However, it’s not like this has only been in “Child’s Play,” evil dolls have appeared in other media, such as episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and “The X-Files,” as well as the popular “Annabelle” franchise.

When it does do it’s own thing, this film is actually not too bad. Watching Andy, and his two friends, deal with this aggressive artificial intelligence works fine as both a satirical dark comedy and a B-movie grade horror.

ChildsPlayBlog
Chucky in the “Child’s Play” remake. Courtesy Orion Pictures, MGM and United Artists.

There are some legitimately good moments of humor here that manage to produce laughs, and a few of the kills are fairly creative for the horror fans out there. When it comes to the humor, while not every attempt at comedy lands, a solid effort is there and it lands well a few times.

The attempts to remake “Child’s Play” did set this movie back in terms of its horror, though. Chucky is so well known as a horror icon, and the design in this feature already looks creepy from the start. Again, had this been an original approach, the movie could have had a more honest build-up with a new, different looking doll, allowing the horror elements to connect more naturally.

As for the cast, the young performers do fairly well here. Bateman, along with Beatrice Kitsos and Ty Consiglio who play his character’s friends, are pretty good here. They play the teen characters convincingly enough and have some fun with the whole thing.

Plaza, meanwhile, is fine here, although her character was written in a way that didn’t allow the actress to show off as much of her comedic talents. Not that all of this needed to be a comedy, mind you, but Plaza does have that talent.

Then there’s Hamill’s Chucky. While initially working fine as the creepy doll voice, the filmmakers never seemed to encourage Hamill to change the approach to make him sound more maniacal. Hamill has a lot of range, as shown by his work as the Joker in “Batman” animated media, so it was somewhat disappointing to not hear more of that type of energy as the movie progressed.

Also, while some of the horror does work here, the movie seemed to miss an opportunity during its climax to go more over the top. The last scenes take place at a toy story and there was definitely room for more mayhem.

Overall, “Child’s Play” is a watchable movie that can entertain an audience for a matinee price. Had it gone with a more original approach, it could have actually stood as it’s own thing fairly well. It being tied to the original so closely though weighs it down. Plus the finale and Hamill’s voice could’ve been improved. There was a good idea here, but all things considered it comes in middle of the road. 3.0 out of 5.

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Author: Matthew Liedke

I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, and I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2009 graduate of Rainy River College and a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University in Moorhead. At MSU, I studied journalism and film. Outside of movies, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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