Necessary Software Upgrade: Our Review of ‘Child’s Play’ (2019)

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - June 20, 2019
Necessary Software Upgrade: Our Review of ‘Child’s Play’ (2019)

Don’t call it a comeback…he’s been here for years…

We’ll be the first to admit that the remake/reboot train that has been riding through Hollywood the past few years has become tedious and banal…even at some of the best of times.  However, with that being said this new take on Child’s Play reinvents the wheel just enough to not feel in anyway tired and actually be a hell of a lot of fun.

An innocent mother (Aubrey Plaza) gives her son (Gabriel Bateman) a toy doll for his birthday, completely unaware of its more sinister nature.

To put it simply, this version of Child’s Play almost doesn’t have any business being as good as it is actually is.  It shifts thematically just enough to play well for modern audiences and has just the right mixture of smart commentary but also comedy and the right amount of blood to drawn in as large of an audience as humanly possible.

While we can’t call this the debut feature for director Lars Klevberg (his debut Polaroid has really only played the festival circuit and overseas after getting caught up in the Weinstein Co bankruptcy) this is the first most audiences have seen of his work and here we get something that plays out with an effectively creepy, yet mildly campy and almost gothic vibe at times.  It takes a deft hand to straddle the line between genres like that, and he does it with remarkable ease.  The production design of it all is quite solid from top to bottom and with cinematographer Brendan Uegama behind the lens and the musical score of the always Bear McCready helping drive the action that feature some amazing looking set pieces and we get something that feels otherworldly yet still grounded all at the same time.  Klevberg successfully plays it out as it’s supposed to be; a really fucked up bedtime story.

The script from writer Tyler Burton Smith really does capture the essence of the character originated by Don Mancini as it all allows for not only the straight up action and occasional carnage that the film entails but also some deft commentary on not only the perils of consumerism and materialism but also how exposure to violence at the wrong age can kind of screw kids up, especially when their sense of right and wrong hasn’t been fully developed yet.

Playing against type, Aubrey Plaza was actually a great choice for Andy’s mom Karen.  She plays it mostly straight and updates the character from the emotional mess that she was in the original to a sarcastic yet caring single mom trying to do her best in the modern age.  It’s a role that needed some subtle wit rubbed on to it and Plaza brings that in spades.  Gabriel Bateman as Andy carries the bulk of the action quite well and with more than a few screen credits under his belt, we easily buy him as a modern day kid forced to fend for himself out of circumstance until he finds himself over his head.  Plaza and Bateman are pretty good together as well and never take us out of the moments that the film is trying to build, if anything they allow us to get further and further in, even when it all gets a little silly and over the top.

The true revelation here however is Mark Hamill taking over duties from Brad Dourif as the voice of Chucky.  In the original films, Dourif’s natural cadence and performances always came off a little sinister at times but here Mark Hamill actually makes the Chucky character fairly sympathetic at the start of the film which only sets us up even more for the eventual turn when Chucky loses track of what it truly means to be someone’s ‘Buddi’ and becomes truly creepy and downright sinister.  Tim Matheson, David Lewis and Brian Tyree Henry round out the ensemble in solid fashion.

This franchise has never really been out straight up scaring you, it has always wanted to thrill audiences while sprinkling a little campy, over the top fun throughout.  Child’s Play has that in spades and in hindsight is one of those rare films that has actually improved on the original without compromising what made the first time around with Chucky work so very well.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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