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Review: Lars Klevberg’s “Child’s Play ’19” (A Decent Remake)

Child’s Play 2 was the first horror film I remember watching when I was a child. It stirred my interest in the genre and is responsible for everything that has brought me since then. Because of this, I hold the Child’s Play series very close to my heart, and remained hopeful going into my viewing of the first film’s remake last night. Written by Tyler Burton Smith based on the characters and story by Don Mancini, Child’s Play finds Andy and his mother, Karen, as they move into a high-rise apartment complex. Karen is struggling to make ends meet and Andy is proving incapable of making friends; so Karen brings home a soon to be obsolete version of the Buddi Doll. Little do they know, the programmer who built the doll made some major changes to the doll’s behavior before sending it out for delivery, and the robot will do anything in its power to have Andy all to itself. Friends till the end! Directed by Lars Klevberg (Polaroid), Child’s Play stars Gabriel Bateman (Lights Out), Aubrey Plaza (“Parks and Recreation”), Beatrice Kitsos (“The Exorcist”), Ty Consiglio, Brian Tyree Henry (Widows), David Lewis (Possession), Carlease Burke (“Switched at Birth”), Tim Matheson (“The West Wing”) and Mark Hamill (Star Wars saga) as the voice of Chucky.

There’s a lot of people who hate on remakes for simply existing, because “nothing can ever hold a candle to the original.” My biggest complaint with the Child’s Play remake falls solely on the development of the Buddi Doll aka Chucky. I could not stand the look of Chucky. Yeah, the clothes are very similar and so is his hair, but I hated the face. It’s missing something that should make it frightening and even when he’s stalking a victim with a knife, I’m looking at him thinking he’s a senior citizen dwarf with years of bad plastic surgery. The CGI used in some of Chucky’s movements is downright terrible, too, most noticeably in the “make a scary face” scene and during a few of the arm movements when he’s in a medium shot. I would rather the old school puppetry and animatronics than the ugly face digital error. I don’t know how Orion pictures decided that this was the look and movement of such an iconic character being shared with a new generation. Chucky’s only saving grace is the fact that Mark Hamill did a fantastic job with his voice-overs and sounded eerily similar to the original actor, Brad Dourif. At the same time, this is a double-sided sword because I felt bad for Chucky, especially when he would ask Andy why they can’t be friends and play together.

Child’s Play was produced by David Katzenberg (IT) and Seth Grahame-Smith (IT). It features cinematography by Brendan Uegama (“Riverdale”) and editing by Tom Elkins (Annabelle) and Julia Wong (Red Riding Hood). I have no complaints about the look and feel of this movie as a production and as a story. Child’s Play is the first big budget entry in the series since Seed of Chucky, and I can see some of the same mechanics and behind-the-scenes work in Child’s Play that made Annabelle and IT such success stories. It has a massive appeal to cinema viewers in general because it looks like a Hollywood blockbuster and everyone knows the name Chucky. My only complaint here is a death scene that takes place outside. There’s Christmas lights on a house, a watermelon garden and a corn field. Is Child’s Play supposed to take place around Christmas, Fourth of July or Halloween? There’s also a lot of rain and long sleeved shirts, so does it take place around Easter? Child’s Play has enough traces of the original, especially considering the fact that it’s a remake, and I enjoyed looking for the similarities between Child’s Play 1988 and Child’s Play 2019. As far as artistic liberties and new ideas go, this movie tiptoes close enough to its predecessor to be considered a real remake and not a reboot. Some of the new ideas hit the mark, like Chucky waking up Andy at night, but a few of them were kind of “eh.”

I liked most of the supporting cast, too, which was great. My favorite was Andy’s girl friend Falyn, who proved to be a valuable ally by the end of the movie. Doreen was also high on my list of characters as was Karen and, of course, Andy. This leads me to my other complaint – you can’t write a script where every character is endearing. You can’t let every character who will be a fan favorite live, too. Child’s Play only has four official on screen kills, unless I’m missing someone, and that just isn’t enough for a slasher-type scary movie in 2019. I almost feel as if they were afraid to kill off certain characters for fear of making the audience mad. There’s hope for a big massacre near the end of the movie, more than in any other movie, but the ball was dropped in such a pivotal moment and the massacre became more of a fear-induced riot. All things considered, Child’s Play was a decent remake that leaves room for a sequel, but I’d just have any remakes finished with this one. It’s good enough for a single viewing and maybe even a Blu-ray purchase if you’re a huge fan of the series, but it has a few problems. Chucky looks terrible and you feel sorry for him, but he pulls off  a few creepy moments. The film looks high quality and pays massive respect to the original, but it’s low on kill count and never truly finalizes its mood. Good, but not great.

Final Score: 6.5 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)