The horror genre has been in a bit of a renaissance lately, with new and exciting properties hitting theaters to great success. But the genre is also one built on long-running franchises, and their countless sequels. The new Halloween did quite well last October, and now Chucky is returning to theaters with
Lars Klevberg's Child's Play.
Child's Play had some very big shoes to fill, despite the character's diminutive stature. Mark Hamill was cast to voice the new Chucky, who was outfitted with various technological features that connect to our plugged in world. So how good did the movie turn out? The reviews are in, and Child's Play is getting a mixed back from critics.
The new Child’s Play isn’t exactly deep (despite its attempts at commentary about our computer-obsessed lives), and it does drag a bit in places – but when it works it works, and by the end of its 90 minute runtime you feel sufficiently entertained. It’s a movie that gets by on some gnarly, creative kill sequences, a mean-spirited-yet-clever sense of humor, and a surprisingly great Mark Hamill performance, and all that winds up being enough to make it passable.
While Eric Eisenberg didn't think that Child's Play mind-blowing or award worthy, it looks like the new movie is an enjoyable theatrical experience. Especially when it comes to Mark Hamill's latest voice role.
But not every publication was quite as generous with praise. The New York Times' Ben Kenigsberg provided a brief review, which described Child's Play as soulless. As he put it:
But while we may need to fear the creeping presence of Alexa, Siri and self-driving cars, rogue artificial intelligence is easily explained — unlike, say, a possessed doll that frames a small boy for murder. Paradoxically, plausibility makes “Child’s Play” less scary. (Don Mancini, the series’ creator, has signaled that this movie wasn’t his idea.) In trying to build a smarter Chucky, the filmmakers have assembled something unfathomably dumb.
The new Child's Play changes its villains origin quite a bit from the 1988 original. Namely, that there isn't a voodoo serial killer trapped in the doll's body. While the new concept brought it to an modern era, many critics found this to be a point of contention for the film. Just take IGN's Rosie Knight, who wrote:
It's not that Child's Play is a bad film, it's just that it often feels more like a lesser episode of Black Mirror than a reimagining of one of the most well known and popular horror franchises of all time. Much of this comes from the creative team's decision to change the origin of the killer doll from being possessed by a serial killer to simply being an out of control and evil A.I.
Child's Play has a pretty killer cast (pun intended). Aside from Mark Hamill's voice performance as Chucky, Parks & Rec alum Aubrey Plaza plays Andy's mother Karen Barclay, while If Beale Street Could Talk's Brian Tyree Henry plays their neighbor.
The often terrorized Andy is played by child actor Gabriel Michael Bateman. These performance seem to be a high point of the thriller, according to The Wrap's Elizabeth Weitzman.
That may be because the movie’s biggest strength is its balance between mordant humor and psychological fear. Everyone’s focus seems to be in a very old-fashioned place, and here that’s an asset. The lead actors are uniformly committed, with Bateman forming touching connections to both a sweetly wry Plaza and a memorable Bryan Tyree Henry, who plays the local detective. Ultimately it’s their bond, rather than Chucky’s final freakout, that suggest this creaky franchise isn’t quite played out yet.
Chucky's design was changed quite a bit in the new Child's Play, going with the new concept and character backstory. Variety's Peter Debruge took umbrage with this design, and maintains that it took away from the movie. As he put it:
Despite all these upgrades, Chucky actually seems less intimidating than before. Part of this can be blamed on the ugly new character design, although he’s really hamstrung by the inevitable limits of an animatronic character’s performance. While the eyes are the only feature that appear to be computer generated, the facial expressions can be confusing, relying on the score to cue us what Chucky is 'thinking.' But when you get down to it, his personality isn’t all that interesting anymore. At least the fact the film doesn’t take itself too seriously can make Child’s Play fun to laugh at — a kind of good-bad movie experience that’s nowhere near as entertaining as that recent Black Mirror episode where Miley Cyrus plays a pop star with a dangerous tie-in toy.
Overall, it looks like the new Child's Play is splitting critics. As such, it'll be important to see how it performs in theaters. Opening weekend is the battle of the toys, as Child's Play competes with Disney's Toy Story 4.
Child's Play is in theaters now. Be sure to check out our 2019 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.