Child’s Play, 2019.
Directed by Lars Klevberg.
Starring Mark Hamill, Gabriel Bateman, Aubrey Plaza, Brian Tyree Henry, Beatrice Kitsos, Ty Consiglio, David Lewis, Marlon Kazadi and Tim Matheson.
A teenager bonds with a high-tech doll given to him by his mother, but the doll becomes dangerously attached to him, with fatal consequences.
The horror community is one of the most loyal and vibrant fanbases for any type of popular culture. But with that said, the reaction to the new take on Child’s Play has been divided. Don Mancini’s original series, which started way back in 1988 and stars Brad Dourif as Chucky, is still going relatively strong, with Cult of Chucky arriving to positive reviews in 2017. Mancini ain’t happy with this new reboot and said he felt “patronised” when MGM called him to ask for his approval. Against that backdrop, the new Child’s Play had to do something special to get fans back on-side. Something like casting Luke Skywalker? Well, exactly that.
Mark Hamill broke the internet when he announced that, after many years as the iconic animated voice of The Joker, he was set to voice Chucky in this reboot, helmed by Norwegian filmmaker Lars Klevberg. This time around, the Buddi doll is a hub for its owner’s entire collection of smart products, controlled via a smartphone app. Deaf Andy (Gabriel Bateman) – a teenager rather than the original’s six-year-old – ends up with one of the dolls when a customer returns the defective model to the store at which Andy’s mother, Karen (Aubrey Plaza) works. It quickly becomes clear that something is very wrong with this doll, who names himself Chucky.
Klevberg’s take on Chucky certainly works hard to establish the bond between Andy and his Buddi doll. The first act of the movie is almost like Toy Story, with the exception of an early scene in which we see a disgruntled employee turn off the “violence inhibitors” on the last doll he makes before he’s sacked. Chucky and Andy bond over calling the family cat a “total dick” and talking smack about Shane (David Lewis), who’s Karen’s douchebag new fella. When news of Chucky’s foul mouth and proclivity for mischief spreads, lonely Andy earns himself a group of friends.
The key factor missing is terror, and this is an issue the movie fails to confront throughout its running time. This is a horror movie that arguably doesn’t contain a single scary moment – and that’s a problem. There’s violence, of course, but no amount of splatter is able to overcome the complete absence of fear.
This wouldn’t necessarily be damning if there were enough entertainment value elsewhere. One scene in which the central characters chuckle along while watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 merely serves as a reminder of the kind of joyous silliness that Klevberg’s film should, but only occasionally does, embody. Hamill’s voice performance is impish and enjoyable, with the kind of mean streak that the film as a whole is sorely lacking, and Brian Tyree Henry provides a handful of laughs as this film’s Detective Mike. These two, though, are the exception rather than the rule.
One of the most intriguing elements of this film is the notion that the Buddi doll can control other smart devices, which seemingly presents limitless potential for scares. However, the movie completely fails to take advantage of all of this, squandering this capability with an array of unimaginative and obvious set pieces involving drones and driverless cars. Even the toy store finale, in which Buddi commands an army of evil bear critters – Five Nights at Chucky’s perhaps? – feels under-cooked and squanders the premise of a doll so high-tech he could be a Black Mirror protagonist.
It would be wrong to completely write off Child’s Play 2019, which has a lot of the constituent parts of a satisfying horror reboot – most notably Hamill’s creepy vocals and a couple of the more macabre set pieces. Unfortunately, the pieces don’t quite come together and it all, sadly, feels a little toothless and lacking in killer bite.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.