“Here’s your problem… someone’s set this thing to evil” is a line from The Simpsons episode Treehouse of Horror III, in which a loveable Krusty the Clown doll is mistakenly set to its murderous mode. The same can also be said for what ails the smart-doll Chucky (voiced by an appealing Mark Hamill), who is fiendishly misprogrammed by a disgruntled factory worker. While this outlandish problem with its laughably mundane explanation works well in a satirical comedy show, it’s the root of a central problem in Child’s Play.
The film is admirably not a lazy derivation of its source material – the classic 1988 thriller – however it occupies that unpopular position of remake territory, where the changes it makes are all for the worse, and its unique elements range mostly from faulty to annoying.
One common element is the basic setup: single Mother Karen (Aubrey Plaza) gives her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) a popular doll for his birthday, unaware of its dangerous background. This is competently established in a structural sense, except the movie’s reliance on jump-scares, repetitive humour and unlikeable characters truncates any suspense or drama it could have had.
At the halfway point, the internal logic is thrown out of the window completely and characters go from unlikeable to just plain silly. After Chucky’s first big kill, the movie ceases to play by the tech-oriented rules that were so stressed from its opening scene, and Andy and his pals inexplicably do not take advantage of the glaring video evidence that incriminates the doll.
Chucky (easily the most likeable character) is only a computer – a malfunctioning one perhaps, but there’s consequently an inescapable rigidity to him. While Brad Dourif’s original serial killer allowed for charisma, wit, and most importantly, a clear motivation and an escalating series of goals, new Chucky’s methodical nature not only renders the character dry, but also predictably feeds into some narrative issues. His unchanging relationship to Andy and constant need to please grows stale very quickly; it’s never really intimidating and fizzles out before it can even reach boiling point.
Movie fans with an affinity for either horror or the 80s will appreciate both the practical effects and various nods to days of old (beginning with the classic “Orion Pictures” logo), but ironically folk with such tastes will probably wish they were watching the original movie. Child’s Play’s outlandish premise is fine, but characters have to react realistically to it, otherwise the audience certainly won’t.
Child’s Play is released nationwide on 21st June 2019.
Watch the trailer for Child’s Play here: