Child’s Play (2019) – Film Review
Director: Lars Klevberg
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, Mark Hamill
by Roger Crow / @RogerCrow
I love good horror comedies, but since the halcyon days of Joe Dante and Sam Raimi, two masters of the genre, that passion has largely been starved. Okay, Edgar Wright did a fine job with Shaun of the Dead in 2004, but getting that balance right has been an uphill struggle for many filmmakers since. (Jordan Peele succeeded with Us, even if that was more horror than comedy).
So when offered the chance to review the Child’s Play reboot, I was buoyed by the fact Aubrey Plaza and Mark Hamill were involved. She plays the alluring overworked single mum who smiles sweetly at irate customers when they return faulty Buddi dolls.
She and slightly deaf son Andy have just moved into a new apartment. He’s lonely, and though the Buddi doll phenomenon is a little young for him, he politely thanks mum when she brings him a rejected toy from the store. The thing is, this version of the AI doll has been reprogrammed by a miffed worker in his overseas factory sweatshop, so all the safety protocols have been disengaged.
“On the money”
Stuttering like Max Headroom, the faulty Buddi, named Chucky, tugs at the heartstrings as he tries to come to terms with the world and right and wrong. Like Data from Star Trek, this next generation of toys is a compelling sight. Ugly, yet endearing, and obviously creepy, as all dolls are in horror movies.
While I was never a big fan of the original films, this reboot seems far more on the money. After all, we live in an age of driverless cars, drones, voice-activated gizmos and almost sentient dolls, so while some of the tech here seems far fetched, at least there’s a degree of credibility.
So it starts off well, and a scene involving Christmas lights must win an award for one of the grossest, and funniest of the year. The set-up is wonderful, while the eventual pay-off leads to an equally funny comedy of manners at the dinner table.
“Exploits every thriller trope”
The joy of Child’s Play 2.0 is it gets the tone just right. A mix of horror and comedy, with Mark Hamill relishing his role as the voice of Chucky. And the fact it’s hard not to sympathise with the faulty doll is an added bonus. One minute a psycho, the next a fearful plastic ‘kid’ in peril. That duplicity is what made Gollum work, and it also ticks a lot of boxes here. I could have done without that closing song. Hamill’s a great Jedi, but can’t carry a tune, though there’s a good chance millennials will adopt the Buddi song in the same way eighties horror fans adopted the catchy Silver Shamrock jingle from Halloween III.
While the second act may lose a little steam, the showdown in a toy shop is just the prolonged end the movie needs. The cast do a great job, while director Lars Klevberg exploits every thriller trope in the book, including the well worn fridge door gag. (Character opens door, obscuring view behind it. Looks for goodies. Closes it. Psycho appears).
It’s obvious the director was heavily influenced by ET, but there are also nods to Toy Story. No coincidence that the lead kid is called Andy. And as this is an Orion film, it’s great to see the old logo at the start, and a brief nod to one of their best movies, the original RoboCop.
Gabriel Bateman is spot on as Andy, and does a great job of carrying the bulk of the movie. He’s just the sort of kid Spielberg would snap up for his next epic. The last shot should have been omitted, which inevitably suggests a sequel could be in the offing, but this is a mainstream popcorn offering rather than a more subtle indie flick, so in a way it’s a given.
The movie looks like it cost far more than $10million, and while it might not have been a massive global success, the thought of that sequel is not the most horrifying thing in the world. Only next time, no singing Mark.