8 / 10
Aubrey Plaza … Karen Barclay
Child’s Play review:
I think that the new version of Child’s Play would do better with a different title. The basic plot is different enough from the original Child’s Play that it could be its own film, and I think that because it carries that title, a lot of purists will go in hating it. But honestly, 2019’s Child’s Play is a lot of fun.
In this Child’s Play, instead of a Good Guy doll, it is a Buddi doll. Similar to an Alexa-type device, it can control all of your devices (your television, your thermostat, your home security system) with voice commands. Instead of a Satanic ritual, the Chucky doll becomes “possessed” when a disgruntled factory worker removes all the safety measures on his final Buddi doll.
Karen is a young single mom who is struggling to create a new home for her son, Andy. For his birthday, she brings him a Buddi doll that was returned for “acting weird.” Andy, who has a difficult time making friends, finds a new friend in his Buddi doll, who says his name is Chucky. He’s a little glitchy, and Andy thinks it is “dorky” to have a doll, but Chucky soon proves himself a good listener and a loyal friend. That is, until he starts staring over Andy in his sleep and threatening Andy’s cat. While Andy and his new friends start to suspect there is something wrong with this Buddi doll, they don’t really do anything about it, which leads to mayhem and brutality. And there is plenty of mayhem and brutality.
This Child’s Play was deeply unsettling – because it is so close to reality. It is a little hyperbolic, but let’s face it: machines run our lives, and sometimes there are terrifying consequences. Remember when Alexas would randomly start laughing for no reason? If that was an ambulatory doll, you would be dead. Director Lars Klevberg does a great job of slowly ramping up the crazy in his version of Chucky. At first, he starts off as just a weird, sentient doll. But as he exists in the world, his AI learns and grows, and he becomes more and more problematic. It is a perfect commentary on technology today. You almost have some sympathy for Chucky in some scenes – he merely wants to love and be loved, and his programming makes that difficult and confusing.
The only problem I had with the movie was the message it gave about violence in media. In one scene, Andy and his friends are watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre II. Chucky sees them laugh and have fun watching the gruesome murders, and this leads directly to him upping his mayhem game. On the one hand, this feels like this is trying to say, “Watching violent films is a direct cause to violent behavior.” This is not a theory that I subscribe to; in fact, I find it offensive. On the other hand, this exact same thing happened with a Microsoft AI that the company gave a Twitter account to. It was supposed to learn from other Twitter users, and it became so misogynistic and anti-Semitic that Microsoft had to shut down the program after less than twenty-four hours.
Aubrey Plaza as Karen seems a little young to be playing a mom, though she does make a joke about having a “very productive sweet sixteen,” which helps alleviate the weirdness. But she brings an air of authority to the role. Unlike most single moms in movies, whose entire lives revolve around a picture-perfect relationship with their child, Karen is still trying to have a life of her own. Gabriel Bateman as Andy was a stand-out. He was the right mix of embarrassed by the doll, then adapting to the doll, enjoying the doll, and scared of the doll. Brian Tyree Henry as Mike, a detective whose mom lives next to Andy and Karen, is loveable and funny, though ultimately his character doesn’t really have much purpose in the film. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to accept Mark Hamill as the voice of Chucky, but he was great. He felt more like the Joker than Luke Skywalker, and I didn’t miss Brad Dourif at all.
Child’s Play is a well-plotted update to a classic story. Chucky is believably updated to be the toy that every kid wants. It is well-paced, with some unique kills and enough blood and violence for any gorehound. Just don’t go in with resentment at another classic remake. This one is actually good.