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Child's Play (2019)
Alas, this new Child's Play shoots itself in the foot early on with a narrative decision that annoyed me for the remainder of the film. Gone are the vengeful spirit of serial killer Charles Lee Ray and the delightful quips of Brad Dourif, and this remake from Lars Klevberg instead takes Chucky into the present, seemingly modern era. Meet Buddi, a doll that can connect to and operate other devices from its Kaslan creator. What gives the film's anti-hero Buddi its murderous rage? An assembly line worker at Kaslan is fired, so he manipulates a doll, deleting its intended code and allowing for a new learned personality. That doll is packed for shipment and ends up in Chicago, where a retail clerk brings it home for her son. This genesis for the doll feels so uninspired and unremarkable that it undercuts the film's effectiveness, despite a couple of clever moments later on.
Karen Barclay (Aubrey Plaza) is the single mom of Andy (Gabriel Bateman), who is displeased that she is dating a married jerk, Shane (David Lewis). On the eve of the launch of Buddi 2, Karen is able to confiscate a returned original Buddi, which turns out to be the defective unit. She gives the toy to Andy, who discovers that the doll can hold full conversations and mimic his actions. The Buddi doll names itself Chucky and latches onto Andy. Soon, Chucky begins displaying violent tendencies learned from movies and neighborhood bullies, and Chucky turns his sights on the family cat, Shane and anyone who might hurt Andy. See, it is hard to care much about the characters and narrative in this version of Child's Play because the doll's backstory is so lame. The idea that the original Chucky was a real serial killer carried that Don Mancini-created storyline to seven films and counting. This new Child's Play feels instantly dated despite its nonstop attempts to bring Chucky into the Internet-centric, cloud-based age.
Chucky is voiced by Mark Hamill this go-round, but the performance feels digitally manipulated, and there is little Luke Skywalker coming through, which is a shame. Another problem-o with this remake is how uneventful the first half of the film is. Chucky is barely given an opportunity to stretch his legs (or knife) until close to the hour mark. The 1988 Child's Play offered some decent suspense, solid acting and enjoyable, Dourif-led dark humor. While the horror franchise shifted gears a bit into comedy with sequels like Seed of Chucky, later direct-to-video entries Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky are surprisingly good. That line of the franchise is apparently still going strong, and more releases are planned. New Child's Play struggles to earn viewers' attention, and the $10-million film feels even cheaper than those aforementioned video sequels. The kills are uninspired and infrequent, and the writing by Tyler Burton Smith feels like a grandpa attempted to be hip, to unimpressive results. "This is for Tupac."
I cannot help but wonder if sometime during production this was headed toward PG-13 territory. Yeah, there is some profanity and gore, but this is a relatively sanitized product compared to the original films. The movie musters a bit of social commentary, and lightly comments on the effects of nonstop screen time and social networking for adolescents. An Internet-era, totally connected Chucky is not a terrible idea, but Child's Play offers little inspiration and fails to take the concept down interesting paths. The movie rambles along for a time with an underdeveloped Andy character, and the always enjoyable Plaza is given little to do. The climax comes out of nowhere, and the drone killings at its center are beyond stupid. You know you have a problem when the most memorable thing about your film is the "Buddi Song" about the fictional toy. The real Chucky would have some choice words for this lousy remake.
The 2.39:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image for this Orion Pictures release is expectedly solid, if a little too slick. This digitally shot production can appear a bit smooth at times, but I suspect this is a source issue and no fault of this Blu-ray transfer. Sharpness is strongest in close-ups, which reveal good texture and fine-object detail. Wide shots are a tad softer but still offer good clarity. Colors are nicely saturated and black levels are pleasing. Shadow detail is abundant, and the film looks good in motion.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix offers plenty of action-element panning to support the on-screen carnage. Dialogue is clear and clean, whether delivered through the center or surround channels. Chucky's voice and footsteps surround the viewer, and the LFE is called upon when necessary. The score and soundtrack sound good, and the elements are nicely balanced. A Spanish 5.1 Dolby mix is included, as are English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release includes a Movies Anywhere HD digital copy. The disc is packed in an eco-case that is wrapped in a slipcover. Extras include an Audio Commentary by Director Klevberg; The Making of Child's Play (5:05/HD); Bringing Child's Play's Chucky to Life (4:28/HD); Lee Hardcastle Claymations (1:37/HD); a Gallery (1:03/HD); and Trailers (4:18/HD).
This is the second remake after Pet Sematary that underwhelmed me this year. The origin of modern Chucky is lame, and Child's Play could have used more Brad Dourif and less cloud-based technology. Skip It.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.