For a remake manufactured purely out of spite for Don Mancini, it’s shocking how great the 2019 “Child’s Play” is. It’s not a redo of the original 1988 and that works toward its benefit as the studio is able to build its own mythology and unique horror tale. While the commentary on AI run amok is on the nose, “Child’s Play” manages to be a great time that evokes a lot of the classic eighties aesthetic right down to fleshed out, clever teen heroes that we can root for.
After moving to Chicago, preteen Andy Barclay receives a special present from his single wage slave mother Karen — a seemingly innocent Buddi doll that becomes his best friend. When the high tech A.I. doll named Chucky suddenly takes on a life of its own, Andy unites with other neighborhood children to stop the sinister toy from wreaking bloody havoc on hapless shoppers and children.
The basics of the original Don Mancini movie are present but also but reworked for what we consider “toys” these days. There’s also some biting satire about technological monopoly, blind consumerism, and the potential for artificial intelligence to sour because we as humans are so damn rotten. Chucky is not so much a maniac in a doll’s body, as he is a program that slowly gains sentience over the course of the narrative and realizes the best and worst of humanity. The problem is the worst is what sticks with him as the darker ideas of the people he lurks around allow him to become a force to be reckoned with. Once he transforms in to this vindictive, clever, vicious, and swift monster, Andy has to pretty much deal with the fruits of his own personality.
While the original was more about Andy’s inner rage stemming from his neglect and living as an only child, this Chucky reflects much of Andy’s worst traits. Although Andy manages to remain an interesting protagonist, he’s also petty, mean, and occasionally selfish. Klevberg and co. build a raucously fun and violent Frankenstein tale where Chucky realizes he doesn’t need human interaction so much. When he finally unleashes hell, Klevberg doesn’t hold back a bit doling out maimings, gruesome slashings, and an exciting, chaotic massacre in a department store. The great performances compliment the rich characterization well with Gabriel Bateman portraying an interesting hero, along with Aubrey Plaza, Beatrice Kitsos, and Brian Tyree Henry, respectively.
Mark Hamill is fantastic as always as the new Chucky, who evolves from a rigid A.I. in to a malicious entity and formidable horror villain by the climax. “Child’s Play” works against all expectations, re-inventing the Don Mancini’s concept with a creative twist. It’s a damn good remake that you could easily discover on your own or watch as a companion to the supernatural slasher.