Sometimes you go into a movie expecting one thing and you walk out of the film having gotten that. And other times, you get the complete opposite. Child’s Play falls somewhere right in the middle of all that.
The film begins in Vietnam, as a worker of Kaplan (think any of our real Smart Home systems like Apple, or Google) coding a Buddi doll. A Buddi doll is our remake/reboot’s version of the Good Guy doll. While the original doll never really looked appealing or safe, it looks a lot safer than the Buddi doll in comparison. It’s similar to many people’s issues with the latest version of Pennywise from It compared to Tim Curry in the miniseries adaptation. There’s a point of trying to look approachable first before scary. Both It and Child’s Play wants to skip the middle man. Let’s jump straight to scary.
The employee is being belittled and attacked and telling him as soon as he’s done with the coding, he’s going to be fired. So he does what many employees would do at a minimum wage job, he does garbage at his job and removes all of the doll’s limitations. This allows our villain to be the killer doll we all love and afraid of, but what else is new.
And that’s where the film obviously has to differ. It no longer is a murderer who uses voodoo magic to transfer their mind, it’s AI gone bad. It still goes by the name Chucky in a bonkers and non-sensical reason. AI going bad seems plausible by all standards. This time Buddi has access to our thermostats, our cameras, phones, television systems and everything else. This adds to the film but the truth is it takes a lot before it gets good.
The film’s first half is borderline laughable – and not in a good way. It’s ridiculous and includes Andy (our hero played by Gabriel Bateman) trying to teach Chucky how to look scary but tells him he still looks cute. Once again, not true and nobody in the theatre believed it. By aiming for scary but approachable first, he just looks wrong and off. It looks part CGI and part puppetry. It misses the marks entirely. Chucky this time is voiced by Mark Hamill and it feels like a missed opportunity. There isn’t any real exciting work he does, it feels like he’s doing the bare minimum.
Andy is being raised by Karen (Aubrey Plaza) as a single mother while she is also dating a man who is very awful to Andy. Also, there is Detective Mike that brings absolute joy and charm to the film that is so very needed. Brian Tyree Henry is allowed to do whatever he pleases. Speaking of which, there is a scene that the still is from that has Mike and Andy at a dinner. It saves the film for sure.
The second half of the film – once Chucky begins being Chucky – the film becomes enjoyable. The deaths are pretty gory while having a sense of humour mixed in. The film as a whole is shot very well and is very pretty to look at. Including the climax of the movie which is actually kind of remarkable. It’s beyond silly but filled with energy that earlier moments of the film were missing dearly.
The film has a few nods to films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (in a massive wonderful way) which is known for the horror being found in almost absurd comedy at the same time. Which at its core, is also the Child’s Play series. How can one actually be afraid of a killer doll? The original series shows us very much how it can go wrong – this one warns you before even getting close to the doll to stay away.