The Movie Waffler New Release Review - CHILD'S PLAY | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review - CHILD'S PLAY

child's play 2019 review
A lonely boy is gifted a dysfunctional doll.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Lars Klevberg

Starring: Gabriel Bateman, Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill, Brian Tyree Henry, Tim Matheson

child's play 2019 uk poster


In 1993 the Child's Play series found itself at the heart of a controversy when British tabloids incorrectly claimed that child killer Jon Venables had viewed the the third entry in the series and took inspiration from it in his infamous murder of toddler James Bulger. Police investigators found that Venables had never actually seen the movie, and psychiatrists assigned to the killer discovered that he had a dislike of horror movies. It was the final high profile attempt to scapegoat the horror genre - both its creators and its fans, not to mention those of Heavy metal music - of a trans-Atlantic campaign that saw a lot of innocent people jailed for their interest in the darker side of entertainment and art.

There's a sequence in this new Child's Play reboot in which the notorious doll Chucky (voiced here by Mark Hamill) views The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (another movie targeted by the censorious British society of the era) and takes inspiration from Tobe Hooper's gory sequel to commit a killing of his own. Is this a case of the franchise giving the middle finger to the UK tabloid press? Possibly, but I don't believe the movie is quite that smart, as it rarely exhibits any sort of intelligence elsewhere in its running time (90 minutes that go by like 180).

child's play 2019 review

With the 1988 original, screenwriter Don Mancini came up with an ingenious premise - a serial killer's soul finds its way into a talking children's doll, turning the toy into a foul-mouthed, wise-cracking Freddy Krueger-esque miniature murderer. Voiced by Brad Dourif, Chucky became an instant horror icon. Much of the humour of the franchise comes from the idea of a homicidal maniac's frustration at finding himself trapped in a tiny body. Chucky might be a maniacal slasher, but he's also adorable, like the toddler who wants to be a tough guy but is always having his hair ruffled by adoring aunties.

For what I can only assume are copyright reasons, with Mancini holding onto specific rights for a planned TV spin-off, this reboot excises the premise of killer Charles Lee Ray possessing Chucky. Rather, we get an opening scene set in the Vietnamese factory where 'Buddi' dolls are churned out by an army of workers. After receiving a bollocking from his supervisor, one disgruntled worker decides to screw over his masters by removing the 'violence inhibitor' function from the doll he's working on. So instead of a doll possessed by the soul of a homicidal maniac we instead get a dysfunctional robot. Yes, this Child's Play is literally a soulless reboot.

child's play 2019 review

The doll in question finds its way into the hands of Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman), a lonely boy who has just moved into a Chicago high-rise apartment with his mother Karen (Aubrey Plaza). In the original film, Andy received Chucky as a gift for his sixth birthday. Bateman's Andy is 13, which makes his burgeoning friendship with his "new best friend" quite bizarre. We're told that Andy has trouble making friends, but the movie never backs this up with any evidence. Quite the opposite actually, with Andy instantly bonding with a kooky pair of neighbourhood kids (Ty Consiglio and Beatrice Kitsos). Together the three exploit Chucky's strange ability to do whatever they ask of the doll.

Chucky makes it clear that he's willing to do anything for Andy, but his misguided obedience leads him to begin killing whomever Andy expresses the merest dislike for, along with anyone who threatens to get in the way of their 'friendship'.

Turning Chucky into essentially a robot might be the most misguided idea since Rob Zombie decided Michael Myers' murderous tendencies were the result of a broken home and his Mom working as a stripper. Gone are the wisecracks and the hilarious frustration of Charles Lee Ray. In their place we get Chucky repeating a series of his own inbuilt phrases, those he has learned from Andy his surrounds, and recordings he constantly makes of anyone who comes into contact with him. This Chucky has more in common with Transformers' Bumblebee than Mancini's Dourif-voiced villain, and it's an utter waste of Hamill's legendary vocal talents. That is, until the climax, when the movie forgets the rules it has set in place for Chucky and just has him turn into the sentient joker fans of the series know him as.

child's play 2019 review

This Child's Play is set in a near future where a gigantic corporation, Kaslan, has cornered the market in electronic goods, which means this Chucky has the ability to tap into the 'Kaslan cloud' and command a variety of the company's products. It's an intriguing idea - though I have to confess it's a poor substitute for the simple thrills of a two foot tall terror slashing ankles while he mouths obscenities - but the movie never really makes anything of it, save for a somewhat mean-spirited set-piece involving a loveable old lady trapped in a self-driving car under the doll's control.

Only the aforementioned Texas Chainsaw inspired sequence resembles something we might see in one of Mancini's films, with Chucky dispensing technology for a good old kitchen knife, and the movie mines some fun black comedy from its aftermath. Chucky himself just looks weird in this iteration. He's creepy, but not in the way the filmmakers likely intended, rather in an uncanny valley manner, like he's been plucked from one of those ghastly Robert Zemeckis animated movies. If you're a fan of this franchise (and if you're not, you're as soulless as the Chucky doll on display here), you'll be relieved that Mancini has held onto the bulk of its rights, as this awful reboot certainly won't be your new best friend.

Child's Play is in UK/ROI cinemas June 21st.


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