Some things never change. You can’t trust politicians, it gets cold in the winter, and murderous dolls are always scary. In 1988 we were introduced to a smart talking, psycho killer hunk of plastic named Chuckie and a franchise was born. Despite being seven films into the original series, the analog version was upgraded to digital in this year’s reboot. “Your New Best Friend, Buddi” is a walking, talking Alexa with a world killing case of PMS. Not only does he wield a mean knife, but he can connect to any electronic gadget and control it with a wave of his ET glowy finger. Once he’s imprinted on his new friend, there’s no getting rid of him.
The analog voodoo of the first film is digitized to removed safety protocols on one Buddi at the doll factory in a case study of bad management styles. This leaves the doll a little disoriented and fritzy around the edges so he can name himself Chuckie while imprinting on his new friend, Andy. Original Chuckie began as a psycho and went from there, but the new Chuckie learns and grows into his badness, making the first half of the movie a little slow. This bad boy begins with a bit of a sneer on his more angular face, and is a lot more moveable than the original which relied a lot on the actors propelling the attacks, and camera tricks to make the doll look mobile. The bones of the original plot have been kept, with the boy and his mom and an unbelieving cop becoming increasingly suspicious of the boy. New Chuckie doesn’t crack wise, but he’s glib and edgy as voiced by Mark Hamill, more prone to messing with peoples’ minds.
Infusing a movie with a lot of nods to older, classic films is a tricky business, and one that doesn’t often work well. Sometimes the homage is so obvious it becomes clunky, and it’s difficult to work them into the plot. Shaun of the Dead is a good example of when it works right, and now this newest Child’s Play. The ET finger is a nice touch (sorry, couldn’t resist), and the Goonies-style human friends, but my favorite was the giallo lit red door of Chuckie’s temporary lockup.
Andy 1.0 was framed by Chuckie with a few well-placed dead people and on his way to the funny farm. The body count is higher and bloodier here with some characters killed that you wish weren’t. Turns out, it’s way easier to frame a kid with modern technology, especially if you’re the one controlling the technology. Once I saw where they were going with it, I couldn’t stop laughing. You know, that horrible, laughing at the terrible things happening in a horror movie kinda laugh? You have to wait for it, though, because the movie takes a while to really get going, faster and furiouser as it closes on the big payoff at the end. At least, it felt like something grand was coming, until the uneven pacing of the rest of the film returned just when it shouldn’t.
The newest Child’s Play is a solid modernizing of the classic doll slasher film, using a good portion of the original story to make it recognizable and giving the doll greater, more realistic mobility and more tools for mayhem. That part could have gone badly, but I think they did a fine job and if you like slasher films you’ll probably like this.
CHILD’S PLAY Official Trailer (2019)
CFR: In Addition: When Mildred sent this review to me she started it with Margaret you won’t like this cause it is a slasher. She is correct. I won’t be seeing this. Which is too bad because you could do a lot of fun things with a mechanical doll that comes to life that doesn’t involve killing everything in sight.