Walking into the new reboot of Child's Play, one would be forgiven for expecting the worst. More than most franchises, this one has stayed relatively healthy over the years, surviving by reinventing itself and finding success on the straight to disc/streaming side of things. When the reboot was announced, it was a surprise, especially since the franchise's steward Don Mancini or the man who gave voice to Chucky all these years Brad Dourif were not involved. Not getting into all of that, fans have been pretty split about supporting this film. The old series lives on, with a tv show in active development. So what of this new one?
Child's Play Review
The new film is actually pretty good. Same as the original Child's Play, the film follows young Andy (Gabriel Bateman) and his mom (Aubrey Plaza). In advance of Andy's birthday, his mom acquires Andy a Buddi doll, an advanced AI system that can control related products in your home, can learn, and is your friend to the end. What they don't know is that a disgruntled worker took all of the safety measures off on this particular doll that were in place, freeing it to do whatever it wants. After befriending Andy, the two become best buds. Unfortunately, Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill) begins to take his protection of Andy to deadly levels.
The move to have Chucky not being possessed but instead a malfunction is where this film shines. While we know his programming is screwed up, nobody else does. That he finds a home with this version of Andy makes for a perfect pairing. They are both broken, and they now have each other, and it is really beautiful. The two, for the first hour or so of the film at least, learn from each other and fill in the gaps in each others personalities. Child's Play never worked for me before because its just a murderous doll. In this version, you feel empathy for Chucky. He learns to be violent, he learns what it means to be betrayed, to be hurt. That is a much more interesting story than what has been given to us in the past.
Hamill does a wonderful job as the voice of Chucky, not that anyone really expected anything different. It is different than Dourif, and that's fine. They both stand on their own. Hamill for sure brings more emotion to the doll, but that has everything to do with the different choices made with the film as far as his origin. Bateman is really good as Andy as well, he plays aloof really well. The scenes with Andy and Chucky palling around are great, and when the turn happens it is heartbreaking. You completely buy these two developing a deep friendship with each other, and that is so important to the story of this Child's Play reboot, the way they frame the story. If that didn't work the film would have crumbled into itself.
Not that it doesn't try. Plaza is not very good here as Karen, playing basically every single scene the same way over and over again. She doesn't seem very interested in Andy at all, almost like she wishes she was not a mother. Even after being confronted with her son possibly being violent, she just does not seem to care. All of the other characters are one note and forgettable. There are spots where the special effects look almost unfinished, although not in the kill scenes. The look of Chucky himself is an odd thing. The original Child's Play is terrifying because Chucky looks like a doll, looks real and authentic. This new version looks weirdly fake, like there is no way you would go into a tore and see that on a shelf. Chucky is never menacing looking, and actually that adds to the sympathy you feel for him. Who would want this thing?
For all the flaws though, this is a fast-paced (at barely an hour and a half) film that features genuinely heart-felt moments and real emotions to go along with gruesome kill scenes and ridiculous concept. Fans and non-fans of the series should give it a shot and go in with an open mind, Child's Play just might surprise you.