Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Review: "Child's Play" is, for better or worse, a step in the right remake direction

Child's Play Review
For about as long as I can remember, I've thought Hollywood has mistreated most remakes. They treat them like jukebox karaoke singings, mostly sung by really drunk, bad singers. They all look the same. The same scenes done over again, just with different actors. Seemingly pandering for the sake of pandering. I only thought Hollywood approached remakes only to make money, and usually there was no creative way to update the story in a meaningful way.

I have to say, whether you end up liking the new "Child's Play" or not, I hope we can agree that this is the template that should be used for future remakes. Right here. This movie isn't really a bunch of actors reacting scenes that are already iconic. This isn't actors going through the motions. The new "Child's Play" found a way to update the character, update the story, approach something familiar in a new way. The structure of the movie alone felt like absolutely not what I was expecting, and suddenly I felt on edge.

Not only that, but believe it or not, the new "Child's Play" is actually really entertaining. Once again, its got a voice of its own, and it maintains that voice all movie long. It's a movie that perfectly blends horror and humor in a big way. I know that may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it works well for Chucky. I mean, the first "Child's Play" was pretty scary. The original Chucky was a pretty creepy looking doll and I know people who got nightmares just by looking at Chucky. But much like Freddie Kruger, Chucky eventually became a somewhat humorous serial killer. The sequels get a goofier and goofier as they go on and the new "Child's Play" definitely adopted some of that goofiness and humor. But the movie remains fun, and for those who like getting scared, horror movies are supposed to be fun. I don't think there is any material that is going to keep me up tonight, but there is so much that works that I am literally shocked.

The original "Child's Play" was very much voodoo horror. the spirit of a serial killer gets transported magically into the doll body of Chucky and it begins terrorizing people. Every time we think the old Chucky is destroyed, he magically puts itself back together again. That was mythology of the original Chucky. In this update, we learn about Kaslan Corporation created a line of high-tech dolls called Buddi. Buddi dolls are designed to control all technology in your home. He can adjust the temperature of your house if you have an electronic A/C unit. It can record your TV programs. It can control those independent vacuums. In Vietnam where the Buddi dolls are being made, a worker is fired for being insufficient. Out of revenge, the worker removes any safety protocols before committing suicide, and of course, this manipulated doll is delivered to the main characters in the story.

We are living in a transitional period with our technology. I've read stories about Amazon Alexa machines that heard people talking when they were supposedly turned off and made suggestions. I've read stories where people argue that the government is spying on us through our smart TV's and our Pokemon Go apps. I look something in passing on my PC and then I see advertisements for them everywhere. It seems like so much new technology is reading our minds, telling us things we want to hear. Its efficient, but it is downright scary. I know my parents got rid of their Alexa machine, because they were positively spooked by the stories. I am a little scared how technology will change in the future. This new "Child's Play" taps into that fear of easy technology that may not have our best interests at hand, and that simply don't leave us alone.

The manipulated doll gets put into a shop in Chicago. One clerk Karen (Aubrey Plaza) takes in the doll after its returned for being "too weird." He wants to do something special for his son Andy (Gabriel Bateman), a person she is desperately trying to understand. Its just Karen and her son at home, and she's doing everything for him. He ends up liking the doll and the doll seems to instantly imprint on Andy. It starts out that Andy gives Buddi, who eventually calls itself Chucky, some fun back and forth. Then he starts talking in depth about his life and his wants and needs to Chucky, and Chucky becomes overprotective over the boy. Chucky doesn't become a killer because their is a serial killer inside him. He sees it as no other option to be there for Andy. Andy is mistreated by Karen's boyfriend, and he doesn't have lots of friends. Its crazy that in the beginning, we kinda sympathizes with Chucky.

Let's talk about Mark Hamill's work. I love what Brad Dourif did with Chucky originally. But I have to give Hamill credit for making the role his own. There is no Dourif imitation in his voice work and for the guy who gave us the best Joker I can think of, it doesn't surprise me that Hamill has made another iconic character simply through his voice. It feels like a meta casting, simply because Hamill also voiced the character on "Robot Chicken," but Hamill gets very funny and very scary at different points in the movie, and its excellent work.

"Child's Play" isn't a perfect movie. I am not crazy of the Chucky design. I think Hollywood remakes are still going out of their way to try to make old characters scary looking, when if they just wrote scary characters, it would work better. But hey, the original Chucky was scary-looking, so I guess that was what they were aiming for. Its also more goofy and funny instead of genuinely scary. Its a gorefest and that is my least favorite type of horror. With all of that said, there is plenty to be fun with this movie. It's also a remake that actually feels like a remake. Thank God for that!

FINAL GRADE: B

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