Chucky and Gabriel Bateman in Child’s Play (Photo: United Artists)
★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Lars Klevberg
STARS Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill
Conceived by Don Mancini, directed by Tom Holland, and scripted by Mancini, Holland and John Lafia, 1988’s Child’s Play was a nifty horror yarn that introduced the world to Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif), a “Good Guy”-brand doll possessed by the spirit of a serial killer following a voodoo incantation. Kevin Yagher designed the excellent effects that animated the Chucky doll, with a clear distinction between the harmless “Good Guy” mode and the demented killer look. In other words, simply based on looks, it was easy to see why kids would want a Good Guy doll and equally obvious why absolutely no one would want a psychotic one.
The new version, also titled Child’s Play, has no room for such niceties, preferring to bask in laziness at every turn. In this rendition (which tellingly received no input from Mancini or Holland), Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill) isn’t evil because he harbors the soul of a mass murderer; instead, he’s naughty because a disgruntled factory employee disabled all of his AI safety features. Be still, my beating heart. It’s a ludicrous concept, although I suspect some susceptible viewers might arrive home after the screening and worry that Alexa might burn the house down or, even worse, cancel their Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions.
As for the look of Chucky? The poor design means he’s as creepy before he’s possessed as afterward, and the thought of children lining up to buy this hideous doll is only slightly more believable than the thought of 5-year-olds queueing up to purchase a Che Guevara T-shirt or a DVD of Antonioni’s The Passenger.
The general plot is the same, as Andy’s mom (Aubrey Plaza) gives her son a Buzz Lightyear — wait, wrong Andy — gives her son (Gabriel Bateman) a damaged Buddi doll that ends up going on a homicidal tear. But the story modifications do this version no favors, particularly the risible climax in which shoppers are bombarded by Chucky-controlled toys. With a scarcity of scares and little internal logic at play, here’s one defective product that should be placed back in the box posthaste.