A retooling of a 1988 glossy supernatural thriller (considered by at least a few as a cult classic) goes the high-tech route with a B-movie aura to it is still able to supply lurid fun for horror aficionados.
Child’s Play comes from Norway’s Lars Klevberg and scribe Tyler Burton-Smith able to jab at the tropes with some zest trying to bring a new approach to characters within a framework of mordant, ironic wit.
A remodeling of a returned Buddi doll (voiced by Mark Hamill of The Last Jedi) turns out to be a birthday gift from a struggling ZedMart worker and mother Karen Barclay (Aubrey Plaza of Safety Not Guaranteed) for hearing-impaired pre-teen son Andy (Gabriel Bateman, bearing a resemblance to Henry Thomas when he worked for Steven Spielberg).
The past of this new best friend/digital assistant leaves no restrictions on its conduct, calling himself Chucky and finding out Andy is upset about the family cat as well as mom’s new boyfriend Shane (David Lewis), not to mention how her toiling has had an effect on him. A brightening index finger signifies an earlier reference as mayhem will ensue with an empowered (always on) Chucky as a detective (Brian Tyree Henry) visits his mother (Carlease Burke) next door.
Within the credible character flaws the filmmaking instills a cynical creepiness even as the plot momentum falters around the midpoint as the nature of the rapacious troll-like figure adds some swift intrigue during vicious interludes and obligatory red herrings. Klevberg uses the artificial intelligence angle (in our ‘Alexa’ times) more as contrivance than as insightful analysis in what may be regarded mostly as run-of-the-mill. The opportunity to provoke amusement is broadened in the approach to include an inexorable upheaval.
While short shrift might be allotted to subordinating players like Henry and Burke caught in a late nightmarish understanding, Plaza has a wry sensibility about Karen also behind on Andy’s suspicions over what is supposed to be a succor. Even Bateman can endow Andy with palpable basic feeling for a kid trying to locate himself. Hamill (known for his voice work in the D.C. Comics realm) expresses a sprightly snappy flair in embracing the film’s tagline “Time To Play” for Chucky. In contrast to what gaunt character actor Brad Dourif did through implacable evil using black magic from his dying murderer in the original incarnation.
This Child’s Play is interconnected to today’s devices, as devilish as consumerism may be, in mirthfully having its way with characters and audiences (a sizable demographic would be oblivious to that Tom Holland version which co-starred Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, and Alex Vincent). Though not without ghastly, taut flourishes a new interpretation proves to be less than spine-tingling. It only has a decided edge on its behemoth rival (featuring playthings) at the multiplex in its gratuitousness.