A mother gives her 13-year-old son a toy doll for his birthday, unaware of its more sinister nature. – (Source)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 60% (Critics) / 67% (Audience)
MetaScore: 48 – mixed or average reviews
Directed By: Lars Klevberg
Written By: Tyler Burton Smith
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, Brian Tyree Henry and Mark Hamill
Studio: Orion Pictures
I was very apprehensive when I read that this version of CHILD’S PLAY would not feature Brad Dourif as the voice of Chucky the evil doll that drives this franchise but that all changed when I read that Mark Hamill was going to step and provide the voice work for this movie. Hamill is a veteran voice actor (in addition to being a major part of a certain movie franchise that takes place in a galaxy far, far away) who has made his mark on the Batman mythos by being the voice of the 2nd best version of The Joker and as Chucky he does just as good of a job. Hamill gives the character all the malevolence needed while also giving more than a little pathos that actually has audiences sympathizing with the murderous little Cabbage Patch Kids doll from hell.
It is that part of Hamill’s performance that gives CHILD’S PLAY all of its emotional heft. When Chucky begins to feel betrayed, hurt and confused by his best buddy Andy or when Chucky finds himself at the mercy of a skeevy building handy man, you actually feel a bit of a tug at the heart strings by how scared and fragile Hamill sounds voicing Chucky. More than anything else in the movie, Hamill’s voice work in those moments create real emotional heft to an otherwise emotionally void movie.
The other bright spot in CHILD’S PLAY is the group of friends that Andy makes and how they come together to do battle with Chucky. It has a very STRANGER THINGS kind of vibe to it that I doubt was unintentional and I think that if the movie focused more on these kids dealing with Chucky’s machinations as a group that the movie would have been a bit more enjoyable.
Changing the method by which Chucky becomes evil was the first in many, many, many missteps that this movie makes. Instead of dark magic/voodoo being the vehicle by which a serial killer has his soul transferred into a Buddy Doll and setting up a franchise that still won’t die (the original CHILD’S PLAY franchise is going to continue to exist separate from the reboot) and being a much better explanation for all the awful crap that Chucky gets up to.
In this movie it just took a disgruntled factory worker in Vietnam to remove a couple security settings and we got a doll that became a hi-tech, miniature version of Lennie from OF MICE AND MEN with a mean streak.
The kills in a movie like this should be one of the film’s saving graces but all of the kills just fell flat for me. Not even a guy’s head being chopped all to hell by a motorized tiller got more of a reaction from me than a slight shoulder shrug. And the biggest action set piece of the entire movie that takes place at a department store came up lame and had me having fond thoughts about the over-the-top fuckery of the classic 1980’s schlocky horror flick CHOPPING MALL.
And don’t even get me started on how wasteful this movie was with its actors! I love Brian Tyree Henry and Aubrey Plaza but they were just so blah in this movie. Neither of the characters they played were given much of interest to do and in Plaza’s place she was pretty much a non-factor for the majority of the movie’s running time.
On a purely aesthetic level the design for Chucky was hideous. I mean even before the doll became homicidal the fucking thing was pure nightmare fuel. Just look at that horrific visage:
No one in their right mind would pay good money for that freaky little bastard just to have it staring at them 24/7 with that grotesque and disturbing face.
Final Verdict: CHILD’S PLAY is a remake that makes poor use of its cast, provides lackluster kills and features a script with plot holes you could drive a truck through but a wonderful performance by Mark Hamill provides just enough quality to not make this movie a total lost cause.