"Child's Play" Is a Waste of Chucky's Talent

The script feels like the first draft of a screenplay written by a bot—which is a problem when you already have one character that's actually a robot.

The Child's Play remake is a waste of everyone's talent—especially Chucky's.

The movie's clearly not aimed at adults, since most of the plot follows a 14-year-old and his witless friends. But it's not directly aimed at kids, because it has a seriously hard R rating for violence. The writing is atrocious, the directing is comically confused, and so the biggest question remains: Who is this movie for?

child's play

In the original 1988 Child's Play, we follow a murderous doll who'd been inhabited by a serial killer's spirit as he seeks to get his old body back, killing innocent people along the way. The kills are ridiculous, the one-liners are cringey, but overall the Chucky franchise is a lot of fun. They weren't cinematic masterpieces or beautifully written dramas—they were campy, brutal, classic 80's slasher films.

And then we have the 2019 remake.

Instead of charm and camp, we get…sarcasm? Awkward pauses? Millennial humor at its absolute worst. Some jokes did get a laugh, mostly thanks to the charm of Brian Tyree Henry. But even he can't salvage dialogue like, "White man dies in a watermelon patch. That's poetic." Is it, detective Morris? Is it, really? (I'm going to start a petition to stop letting white people write white people jokes.)

Let me back up a bit. This new film starts with a disgruntled factory worker disabling the security features on a high-tech "Buddi" smart doll before throwing himself out of a window. Pretty strong start. The hacked doll then ends up in the hands of Andy Barclay, who shares a name with the original character and absolutely nothing else. With the security features disabled, Chucky is able to curse, commit foul acts, and eventually establish an affinity for bloodshed.

child's play 2019

The plot is contrived, but that's not the biggest issue. The biggest flaw is Andy. He is an incredibly boring character, doesn't have much in the way of a personality, and spends an awful lot of time crying. I mean, in the original, Andy cried a lot too, but he was six - not fourteen. I don't understand why he is our main character when you have incredible talents like Aubrey Plaza playing his single mother and Brian Tyree Henry playing the friendly neighborhood detective. This would be the chance to make some very warranted creative liberties. But the director seems completely unaware of how to leverage his actors' strengths, as Plaza is left for most of the movie to play a clueless but loving mother, and Henry to a charming but ultimately useless cop.

child's play 2019

What's worse is that this new A.I. "evil robot" angle could have totally worked as a Chucky reboot concept. The doll learns to love killing by misunderstanding human emotion; then he just starts slashing up the town. His wifi-enabled A.I. could hack into everyone's connected devices to create some really inventive kills! Instead, we get someone trapped in a smart car driving in circles, only to have Chucky pop up and stab the victim. I think the new Chucky design really worked, too: The dead, vacant eyes and creepy smile were really suitable updates to the already iconic doll we all know and love.

Unfortunately, the script feels like the first draft of a screenplay written by a bot. You knew what every character was going to say before they said it, and no one acted like a human. Which is a problem when you already have one character that's actually a robot.

child's play review

You might find yourself thinking: "Who the hell made this?" And you might not be surprised to find that it's… some random guy. Lars Klevberg has directed a total of one other movie, also released in 2019 (he has a pretty cool Vimeo page, though). The writer, Tyler Burton Smith, also has a limited portfolio of feature films—this one. He's written some video game stories before, and his twitter is funny. So we have two guys who have never done this before and none of the original creative team (notably Chucky creator Don Mancini, and the legendary Chucky himself, Brad Dourif) to help move the project along.

The movie ends up being a wasted opportunity to bring life back to a dusty franchise. The ideas are there, and the characters are serviceable, but the execution holds the film back from being memorable in any way. Say what you will about the old series, but it had style—something this film does not.

So… who is this movie for? Definitely not me. But if you're looking for something new to watch and don't care about the purity of the Chucky franchise, you could do worse than this. But not by much.

Rating: ⚡⚡/5

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