Child’s Play (2019) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): He’s a very bad doll…

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“Child’s Play”, the remake of the 1988 horror film of the same name, is a nasty genre piece packed with scares and gores. I was only mildly amused and entertained during my viewing, and that made me keep wondering whether this remake was really necessary or not, but it is at least a fairly competent product which was less terrible than I feared.

The remake version goes for a little more ‘realistic’ approach compared to the original version. While the doll in the original version happened to be possessed by the spirit of a mad serial killer, the doll in the remake version is an artificial intelligence robot which happens to be programmed to be devoid of any safety/restriction measure by an exhausted and exasperated Vietnamese factory employee. This premise is a bit less creepy, but we may find it more plausible when our world becomes more familiar with artificial intelligence in the near future.

What follows next is pretty familiar to you if you watched the original version before. Not long after that reprogrammed doll happens to be sent back for a ‘minor’ malfunction at a local shopping mall where she works, Karen Barclay (Aubrey Plaza) decides to bring it to her adolescent son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) as an early birthday present for him, and Andy gladly accepts the doll, though he is not as excited as she expected because, as he points out, he is a bit too old to play with a doll.

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While the doll, which somehow names itself ‘Chucky’, annoys and disturbs Andy during their first night, Andy becomes more accustomed to Chucky as days go by, and we get a little sweet montage scene showing how Andy and Chucky become close via more interactions between them. Andy often feels awkward about himself as a kid with hearing disability who recently moved to a new neighborhood along with her mother, so Chucky is willing to be Andy’s best buddy as programmed, and things get better for Andy when he and Chucky happen to come across two neighborhood kids on one day, who are impressed by Chucky’ uninhibited use of words and think that is, yes, totally cool.

Of course, we all know that the story will soon take a very disturbing tone, and the movie does not disappoint the audiences as Chucky reveals more of his darker sides. As Andy’s best buddy, Chucky is inclined to do anything for Andy, and there is a very uncomfortable scene involved with a pet cat which Andy does not like much – and that is just only the beginning.

Getting frightened more and more by what Chucky is capable of, Andy tries to handle the situation for himself, but the situation gets only worse for him, and, not so surprisingly, nobody believes him when he finally comes to try to warn others around him of how dangerous Chucky really is. As a result, the body count keeps getting increased, and Chucky becomes more violent and resourceful than before as your average deranged AI robot.

While giving us a series of vicious moments of mayhem and blood, the movie also provides us a few sharp moments to be appreciated. I was amused and horrified by one crucial scene where Chucky absorbs the graphic moments of a violent horror film then attempts to stab someone for his best friend’s entertainment, and that reminds me of how AI can be influenced by the dark sides of our human nature. Considering how much AI can be smarter than us someday, it will be frightening when a powerful AI happens to learn and acquire hate and violence just like Chucky in the film.

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Everything in the story eventually culminates to a tense climatic sequence set in the shopping mall, and that is when Chucky goes further with his murderous nastiness. Although I must confess that I cannot help but miss Brad Dourif’s enjoyably malicious voice performance in the original version, Mark Hamill, who has been mainly known for his iconic role in the Star Wars movies but is also a wonderful voice actor who did a marvelous job in a number of TV animation series including “Batman: The Animated Series”, did a solid job on the whole, and his insidious voice performance is one of the main reasons why the movie works to some degree even during its predictable finale, which incidentally features one of certain old genre clichés.

On the other hand, the other main cast members of the film are stuck with their relatively less colorful roles, though they did as much as they can for filling their respective spots. While young performer Gabriel Bateman is believable in his character’s gradual descent into dread and panic, Aubrey Plaza shows here a more serious side of her talent despite her rather thankless job, and Brian Tyree Henry, who has been more notable to us thanks to his wonderful supporting performances in “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018) and TV series “Atlanta”, manages to hold his own small place as a sympathetic cop who happens to be one of Andy and Karen’s new neighbors.

In conclusion, “Child’s Play”, directed by Lars Klevberg and written by Tyler Burton Smith, has some good things for scaring and entertaining us, but I hesitate to recommend it as it is less enjoyable than the original version while being more violent and vicious. Like the original version, the movie leaves some possibility of sequels during its last scene, but, considering how terrible most of the sequels of the original version were, I do not have much expectation.

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