‘If I can’t be your best buddy, then nobody can…’
I never really loved the Child’s Play franchise. For me, it was always the bratty little brother of ’80s horror movies, forever destined to live in the shadow of Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. Chucky is unapologetically crude and campy, and while this draws comparisons with Freddy Krueger in his later years, Chucky doesn’t have that first evil incarnation to fall back on. Having said that, Chucky’s back story is pretty wild. Starting life as notorious serial killer Charles Lee Ray, Chucky is born following a voodoo ritual that sees Ray’s soul transferred from his body to the that of a children’s toy. And thus, a legend was born…
The 2019 reboot does away with all of the supernatural elements from the first movie, instead deciding to explain Chucky’s murderous tendencies using cold, hard logic. Here, Chucky is brought to life by a vengeful factory worker who removes all behaviour limits from Chucky’s AI in his last act before being fired from the company. Chucky (Mark Hamill) eventually finds his way to the home of Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman) and his mom Karen (Aubrey Plaza) with disastrous consequences.
First off, it’s disconcerting to see Plaza in a motherly role. Not because she can’t pull it off, she is great throughout, but because in my head she is still about 20 years old. Time makes fools of us all. As with the rest of the cast, Plaza has a lot of fun in this straightforward remake. There is an occasional hamfisted attempt at social commentary, but director Lars Klevberg is mainly here for the fun times. Namely, blood, guts, guns, knives, lives, wives and sluts (as Eminem so eloquently declared back in the olden days).
Chucky himself takes a bit a backseat throughout and Hamill plays the doll with more brooding menace than Brad Dourif’s wisecracking take on the iconic movie villain from the source material. This mostly pays off, but it does render the whole thing a little forgettable, a little safe.
All in all, Child’s Play feels more like a generic sequel rather than the radical reboot it clearly wants to be, but the main thing is, it’s entertaining, and really, that’s all you can ask from a film about a murderous doll.