I think we all know what the better toy-themed movie to come out this weekend is!
You remember Child’s Play, don’t you? In that film, a serial killer named Charles Lee Ray is gunned down by police, and, using voodoo magic, transfers his soul into a Good Guy doll before dying. Ray, now as a doll named Chucky, ends up in the hands of a young boy named Andy, and continues to kill people, including Andy’s babysitter. This murder along with several others that follow, lead people to believe that Andy is responsible, though he claims that it was the doll, who is institutionalized as a result. When the mother finds out that the doll really is alive, she sets out to stop Ray before he transfers his soul into Andy’s body. Given the amount of sequels that followed, it is obvious the doll did not succeed.
In this remake, there is no Charles Lee Ray, no voodoo practice of any kind, and no Good Guy doll. The killer doll this time is a Buddi doll, which acts a hub for any household device that is connected to WiFi. One doll in particular is tampered with by a disgraced toy constructor, who disables all of the doll’s safety features. This doll ends up in the hands of 10-year-old Andy Barclay, as an early birthday present from his mother. Though initially reluctant in playing with what is essentially a children’s doll, he soon grows attached to it, given all of its interactive abilities, and Chucky shows strict loyalty to his owner. Things start to go awry, though, when the doll starts showing dangerous behavior towards anyone who comes close to showing Andy any harm. When he actually starts killing people, Andy and a group of neighborhood kids he recently befriended must stop the doll before he continues his killing spree.
I am just going to come out and say this right now: I am baffled by how much I hated this remake. Throughout the entirety of its runtime, I was waiting for the film to either thrill or entertain me, and it failed to do either. All it left me feeling was depressed that this was best way the filmmakers thought to update Child’s Play.
I cannot say that the original Child’s Play is a masterpiece in the way the The Exorcist is, because there are certain moments that are too silly, even for its initial horror premise. Nevertheless, writer Don Mancini and director Tom Holland took the material seriously enough where you can view it as a real horror film. The first half is especially engaging because it is carefully constructed with 1st-person perspectives to make you wonder if Andy is the true killer. Of course, we all know the doll is the killer, for that is what we are watching it for, but it does show that the filmmakers exercised everything they could from the material to keep it interesting and suspenseful. Now, after seeing the remake, which had no involvement from Mancini or Holland, I have a much larger appreciation for the original.
Almost every change that was made for this remake was made for the worst, especially in the age of Andy. It was appropriate for Andy to be 6 in the original, because seeing a young child trying to tell adults that his doll was the culprit of the deaths people suspect him for is not only heartbreaking, but also fairly authentic. On the other hand, seeing a ten-year-old trying to do the same is pretty underwhelming, even with the abandonment issues applied to his character. In addition, his character is also partially deaf, and uses a hearing aid, which serves no real purpose until the end, where the doll communicates with him.
The biggest culprit of the film, by far, though, is its comedy. It is the kind where you can recognize the fact that there is a joke, but it fails to generate any laughs from you. Not only are these jokes not funny, but they also rob the film of any suspense. For example, there is one major character death at the hands of Chucky, but once it happens, Chucky proclaims “This one is for Tupac!” (He was taught the phrase by another kid). What should be a pivotal moment of horror was ruined by a witty catchphrase, although the horrendous execution (ahem) of the death did not help matters much, either. There are plenty of moments like that throughout this film, and this tactic becomes annoying after a certain amount of time. I cannot speak for everyone’s taste in comedy, for many people in my audience laughed at these jokes, but they did not work for me, and kept me from enjoying the film as a whole.
The doll itself feels wrong in its design. The one from the original Child’s Play was creepy, yes, but you can still picture a parent buying that for their child, especially in an era where Cabbage Patch Dolls were at the height of their popularity. I do not know what parent would be demented enough to buy the monstrosity that the filmmakers cooked up for this version at any period in time. With its slightly melted face and horrific mouth movement, this looks less like a children’s toy and more an anthropomorphic version of the Coney Island Steeplechase logo if it never showed its teeth. Even if it is a top of the line Wifi hub, the design is so creepy that I surprised no one thought about having recalled it in the first place. It is clear that the filmmakers are aware of this and have characters constantly acknowledge this, but this would never be accepted in our world, let alone the strange universe this film takes place in.
These miscalculations also affect the actors performances. Aubrey Plaza plays Andy’s mother in this remake, and she is an actress I genuinely like. She does have a few of the film’s rare funny line deliveries found in the beginning, and that is mostly thanks to her natural demeanor, but the never gives her any proper character development, and her emotional change towards the end does not feel earned. The rest of the actors’ performances feel mediocre at best, but the actor who suffers the most, however, is Mark Hamill as the voice of Chucky. The film’s trailer seemed to promise that Hamill would have a real creepy take on Chucky, but because the film fails to be suspenseful, so does the character. The fact When Chucky says “Peek-a-boo!”, the last thing he should be reminding me of is Droopy Dog.
There is only one element of the film that I genuinely found interesting to a certain extent, and that is how the doll picks up methods of killing through what he observes, as well as how he targets his killers. This is not a bad idea, given how technology has gotten to the point of recording our every move when we don’t expect it, but it does not feel utilized well here, and it add this robs the film of any suspense and undermines the horror. However, the execution reminds me less of Child’s Play, and more of Joe Dante’s 1998 misfire, Small Soldiers, even down to the Chucky doll getting his owner’s name wrong.
It is clear from the combination of horror and comedy, with a little Stranger Things influence, that the filmmakers were trying to replicate the remake of IT. The reason I know that this attempt was a failure is because I remember genuinely enjoying IT, as opposed to this film, where I was scratching my head while watching, wondering what the point of anything was. I also couldn’t help thinking about last year’s Halloween, which also contained too many comedic moments that took away from the horror. I honestly do not get this trend, and I am not sure if I ever will.
The remake of Child’s Play is less of a modern retelling and more of a colossal miscalculation in filmmaking. Early reactions have claimed that this movie is both fun and entertaining, and my audience seemed to enjoy it enough. If it seems I am being too harsh on this film, it is only because I am being honest. If I am not feeling any scares of laughs from a horror-comedy, then something doesn’t feel right. So if you go to the movies this weekend, make sure the marquee above you says Toy Story 4. Trust me when I say that you will have a much more enjoyable time.