The idea of an evil doll that kills people is pretty absurd. The plastic expression in the face, the glassy lifeless eyes, the small frame, etc. It’s all so silly, but can definitely be oh so creepy too. Not so much in a shocking Toy Story way but more “it looks almost human” way. Child’s Play – the 2019 remake/re-adaptation of the 80s classic – understands this idea thoroughly. What it has produced is a movie that is a total blast to watch. A real crowd-pleaser, from beginning to end, this is. At least, that was my audience reaction. Perhaps they, too, were on my wavelength? Perhaps too they were on the one from the movie?
Child’s Play starts with an ominous establishment of corporate and capitalist interests over those of labor. We cut from a speech from a CEO about a new doll line called Buddi, an AI assistant enabled toy that hooks into wifi home devices, to a lightning strike at a Vietnamese sweatshop. They are programming and piecing the Buddi dolls together, when one manager angers a daydreaming exploited worker to create a super dangerous and defective abomination. He ships it away, as more thunder cracks the sky. Such an opening gave me vibes of devilish fun straight from the era this movie is replicating. From the Orion Pictures logo to this introduction to the wicked humor exhibited, Child’s Play goes for the gut and glut of throwback fun with contemporary challenges.
The idea that Chucky (the Buddi doll in this movie – originally named Han Solo by the kid but defective sensors replaced with Chucky), voiced by Luke Skywalker himself Mark Hamill, would be connected to the cloud feels like a potential mistake, but is treated with such a Wes Craven touch that it works out really well. His eyes are baby cameras that can be accessed through a phone. He controls other products like Roombas and Uber-like services. He’s connected, leading to a world of different kinds of kills and thrills. And Hamill is having fun with it all, going from cutesy to terrifying to ghoulish in a snap.
This film follows a pretty basic “kid with a problem” plot, but is edgy enough to knick off some checkboxes along the way:
- Kid has a problem making friends
- Connects with Chucky over being problematic as well
- Hides the things his doll does
- Becomes increasingly paranoid and suspicious
- Hates his mother’s boyfriend
Each one of the above mark and make for some rather clever if goofy moments. Moments that the movie knows are goofy, knows we know, and goes along with it all with passion. The finale for instance, a supermarket massacre involving other dolls, gets out of hand and wild in increasingly unexpected and downright laugh out loud ways. This isn’t technically a comedy, but it sure knows when it’s being funny.
Could Child’s Play be that rare instance of an 80s remake that gets things right? Yes, it could be. It eschews that decade’s aesthetic for a modern look, but still captures that old-ish mentality of Reaganomics gory satire. Things aren’t laid in too thick here, but there are scenes that bring into question – even if briefly – our connected planet. All it has to say about it is that a doll with wifi may hook in and start wrecking people’s s**t.
Indeed, that’s as far as the movie takes things, and that’s as far as it needs to. My crowd loved it, and I suspect more will too, should they buy a ticket.
RATING: 3.5 / 5
Child’s Play is currently playing across the metro area and beyond.
Bill Arceneaux has been an independent writer and film critic in the New Orleans area since 2011, working with outlets like Film Threat, DIG Baton Rouge, Crosstown Conversations, and Occupy. He is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and is Rotten Tomatoes approved. Follow him on Twitter: @billreviews