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Movie Review: Child’s Play

Meet your new best friend in Child’s Play. Image used from Rogerebert.com

Since 2003, there have been numerous remakes of horror films. Created mainly because the film is old and can be updated, studios make an easy profit with little effort. The latter was certainly the case for today’s film Child’s Play, but this has caused a great deal of controversy. The original series creator Don Mancini is still creating new chapters with two movies coming out over the next few years, a TV series premiering next year and other movies down the line. This new Child’s Play has been made without his involvement and so has angered many people. Was that anger justified or is the new Child’s Play a gift we weren’t expecting?

The story for Child’s Play is both one of it’s best strengths and biggest hindrance. The story follows Andy a young boy who has moved to a new apartment with his mother. Andy has trouble making friends so his mom manages to get her hands on a Buddi Doll, essentially an Amazon Echo if it could move and was creepy beyond words. Andy quickly befriends the doll, named Chucky, but doesn’t know the terror that lies in store. It doesn’t take long to see that while the studio had a quick profit with little work in mind the writer Tyler Burton Smith actually had an understanding for the property and wanted to make the best story he could. At the very beginning of the film we see that he still retains the idea of crazed mass consumerism in America by opening on a dreary sweatshop in Vietnam where an abused employee tampers with our main villain and sets the story in motion. That opening, that simple real world horror is something we don’t see very often: The cruel mistreatment of overworked, underpaid people working unbearably hard to create something that will very soon be obsolete. It’s a sad and truly chilling way to begin the film. That idea remains prevalent throughout the film and by the third act takes a visceral turn on it’s head. The film takes a steady place when Andy gets Chucky, taking time to develop their friendship and show what sets Chucky off on his rampage. This works strongly in the film’s favor as the friendship is the emotional core of the whole story and makes us care about Chucky. Once Chucky turns evil we get to see some of the truly clever and interesting ideas Smith has. How do you make a two foot tall doll that weighs only twenty pounds take down a full grown person? Give him the ability to hack into tools, products and vehicles that were made by the same company and since everything is made by said company the entire world is Chucky’s weapon. This makes him a truly intimidating force and of course gives a mountain of ideas on what the kills can be. Add on top of that an appropriate amount of, and very effective, dark humor and you truly have something incredible. But there’s one thing that holds this story back from true greatness: The title. This should not have been a Child’s Play movie. It has really good ideas, the story is smart and works, the humor is effective, it has a well done emotional side to it, it doesn’t need a well known brand to help sell the idea. This could have easily been an original film but by making it Child’s Play, by making our antagonist Chucky, it took me out of it and it is quite upsetting that at no time no one thought that making this an original film was a better idea.


The characters for Child’s Play are well made


Andy is an interesting and sympathetic character. At first glance he comes off as unlikable as it feels like he’s rude and disrespectful to his mother. Thankfully it doesn’t take long for him to come around as we soon see that he’s a sad and lonely child. This makes him a more sympathetic character and thus a character we can root for. His friendship with Chucky really does drive many of the emotional scenes home which makes the film all the more engaging.


Chucky is something of a mixed bag. In this film instead of being a doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer Chucky is instead a robot who’s limitations on what he can learn and do have been turned off (set to evil if you will). It’s an odd decision that kind of makes Chucky lack any kind of a personality. Yes you need a character that’s different otherwise what’s the point but this Chucky just felt constantly off. That being said there are good aspects to his character. I honestly felt sorry for Chucky, in fact I felt sad very often. He starts off good but because of what he sees and hears he assumes violence is good and he has to protect Andy. It’s clear that he consciously doesn’t know what he does is evil and wrong which is both sad and unnerving. Again though I must say if this was it’s own thing then I wouldn’t have had the former complaints about the character.


The supporting cast is made up of good characters. Karen Barclay, Andy’s mom, is a very caring and hardworking person who loves her son but is in constant stress because of work and the events of the film which makes her very sympathetic. Detective Mike Norris is a very kind character who adds a level of light humor through most of the film and though he doesn’t leave as big of an impact as the original character he’s still a welcomed and enjoyable character. Falyn and Pugg are Andy’s friends and are pretty good characters but it feels like they didn’t get enough time and development to really stand out. In fact there are a lot of child characters that, had they been given larger roles, could have expanded and fleshed out the cast. 


Acting for Child’s Play is very good

Gabriel Bateman does well as Andy. In his more dramatic moments, the ones when he’s angry or sad, he manages to truly sell. He manages to carry the film on his own when he has no one else to work off of and his entire performance is nothing short of impressive.


Mark Hamill does an excellent job as Chucky. Having to do a role so perfected and so famous as Brad Dourif’s is an immense task for anyone to take on but for this character there really was no other replacement better then Hamill. Hamill’s performance sounds cold and robotic for the most park which is very appropriate considering his character and mostly sounds unrecognizable. As Chucky’s character begins to grow, though, there are more hints of life and personality that Hamill injects into his performance but even so that robotic tone remains. His tone makes for some truly unnerving moments such as when Chucky is killing someone. He comes off as cold and uncaring, not even acknowledging what he’s doing. But often times Hamill does manage to make Chucky sympathetic and in the more serious moments is quite moving. By the end of the film Hamill comes full circle and is truly menacing and eerie making for a completely great performance. Now if only Dourif’s Chucky existed in this film’s canon, imagine those two working off of one another.


Aubrey Plaza gives a fine performance as Karen. She is convincing, she works well with Bateman and shows that she does have range. However I just couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something off about her performance. Maybe it was because she feels too young to be playing a mother or perhaps it’s her having spent years playing monotone teenagers that causes me to think to that type of character immediately. Despite that Plaza still does a good job.


Brain Tyree Henry does a very good job as Detective Mike Norris. Henry doesn’t have as big of a role as he should, appearing only every so often before he becomes important for the finale, but even so he’ so immensely humorous that what little we do see is memorable and very entertaining.


The effects and makeup for Child’s Play are rather mixed


The effects have a lot going for them with many things looking impressive for such a modest budget. The finale has many great uses of practical effects that work nicely and give a real sense of carnage and chaos. But of course the main attraction with the effects is the Chucky doll and… they’re not good. The problem is Chucky’s face. See under normal circumstances the effects for Chucky wouldn’t be bad but the problem is in the design and comparing the animatronics to other Child’s Play films. The design of Chucky’s face just looks wrong and creepy and not the kind of creepy the filmmakers were going for. He looks ugly and it just doesn’t feel like the type of thing a multi trillion dollar corporation would want to sell as the literal face of their company. The animatronics are also sub par. It’s interesting how they manage to give Chucky a range of emotions but looking at the original movies who had smaller budgets and less the work with it truly is astounding that those old movies had better effects for Chucky then the new film. They even incorporate some CG into Chucky’s movements which is really obvious and looks downright awful. Aside from that the makeup and gore effects are very well done and at times even had me squirming a little. The gore isn’t ample but when used it truly is used effectively and does make for a more grisly film.


Final Thoughts: It isn’t without it’s problems, mainly some effects and the fact that this should have been an original film, but overall Child’s Play is a very entertaining and well made remake. The story has loads of interesting ideas, enough to expand into other films and stories, the characters are pretty good, the acting is very well done, the kills are inventive and the makeup superb. It still does bother me greatly that this wasn’t at the very least a spin off film but even so the filmmakers took what was supposed to be a lazy, easy pay day and put actual effort into it to make it good.
Verdict: 4/5

About the Author

Good day to you, my name is Jonathan Gonzalez. For years I've loved movies and have been reviewing them for years, ever since I first saw Roger Ebert on Ebert and Roeper during my freshman year of high school for the first time. I am a graduate of Mercy College with a Bachelor's in Journalism and I have Asperger's Syndrome, something I am truly proud of.

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