Child’s Play

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Child's Play
dir Lars Klevberg
scr Tyler Burton Smith
prd Seth Grahame-Smith, David Katzenberg
with Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, Mark Hamill, Brian Tyree Henry, Beatrice Kitsos, Tim Matheson, Ty Consiglio, Marlon Kazadi, David Lewis, Carlease Burke, Trent Redekop, Nicole Anthony
release US/UK 21.Jun.19
19/US Orion 1h30

plaza hamill henry

chucky and bateman
Cleverly updated to the present day, this reimagines rather than just remakes the 1988 cult classic. With a snappy sense of humour, this version uses artificial intelligence and inter-connected devices to create a different kind of horror, because there's nothing supernatural going on this time. Director Klevberg stages the action with a combination of wit and gore, and the actors add intriguing angles to the characters.
Struggling to make ends meet with her job at ZedMart, Karen (Plaza) repurposes a returned Buddi doll (voiced by Hamill) as a birthday present for her preteen son Andy (Bateman). Designed as a digital assistant/best friend, this particular doll has a rather dark history, built without limits on its behaviour. So he renames himself Chucky, and quickly learns that Andy is annoyed by both the family cat and Karen's boyfriend Shane (Lewis). Detective Mike (Henry), visiting his mother (Burke) next door, gets pulled in to the chaos. And Chucky doesn't have an off switch.
While maintaining a B-movie vibe, the film is sharply well-produced, with seamless effects and a solid sense of the people. So even when the plot stalls in the middle, it feels brisk and involving. Each character has his or her own issues to deal with, aside from this marauding doll, which of course is only trying to help. This adds an amusing irony to the creepy touches, including red herrings and extreme nastiness. It also helps pull the audience into the nightmare, because the people are so easy to empathise with.

Plaza channels her sardonic wit cleverly into this character, a single mother struggling to do her best. Karen and the other adults are the last to realise that Andy's fears about Chucky might be worth taking seriously, and both Henry and Burke have some fun with this as well. The kids are terrific too, with Bateman adding underlying emotion to his role as a kid struggling to find his place in the world. But of course Hamill steals the show with his outrageously sparky voice work.

In the end, the filmmakers use artificial intelligence as a gimmick, without making any comment about its potential. So they have plenty of scope to joke about everything from screen-time to the inevitable robot apocalypse. This is the kind of movie horror fans will love, mainly because it continually pokes fun at its own cliches, merrily turning the tables on both the characters and the audience while never forgetting the value of some proper on-screen grisliness.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 17.Jun.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall