As in the original movies, Chucky is still given as a gift by a single mother (this time played by Aubrey Plaza) to her son (Gabriel Bateman). Photograph from IMDb
Culture Movies

Review: ‘Child’s Play’ is mostly cringe-inducing violence and jokes that don’t land

This of-the-moment reboot prompts one to ask the question: who let the doll out? 
Andrew Paredes | Jun 21 2019

Directed by Lars Klevberg

Starring Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, Mark Hamill

When you’re a horror movie villain with any kind of following, you’re bound to get brought back from the dead for a reboot—just ask Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. 

So it’s not a surprise that Chucky the killer doll from the Child’s Play movies would get his own resurrection treatment from Hollywood. The idea is intriguingly rooted in present-day realities: This time, Chucky doesn’t come by his homicidal proclivities by supernatural means, but by an intentional glitch from a disgruntled employee in a Vietnamese sweat shop. Add a Scandinavian director—the go-to region for Hollywood horror, if the rise of Lights Out’s David F. Sandberg and Let the Right One In’s Tomas Alfredson is any indication—and what could go wrong?

Mark Hamill and Gabriel Bateman


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A lot, it turns out. As in the original movies, Chucky is still given as a gift by a single mother (this time played by Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza) to her son (Gabriel Bateman of Lights Out), but in this retelling, the mom is a retail zombie who gets the doll as a return cast-off, presumably as a comment on the 99%’s diminished economic prospects. The initial problem is casting Aubrey Plaza in the role: The actress’ deadpan style and default stance of rolling-eyed indifference make her acutely unsuited to the role of terrorized mother.

Plaza's default stance of rolling-eyed indifference makes her acutely unsuited to the role of terrorized mother.

Making Chucky the product of defective A.I. and then giving him control of other affiliated appliances sounds like an of-the-moment revision. But a bigger problem soon becomes apparent once Andy connects with a Scooby gang of fellow tweens to try to stop his doll’s murderous rampage. Andy himself has a lukewarm reaction to his present, which only makes it absurd when his new friends suddenly think he’s cool because his talking doll can spew expletives. 

 Chucky is voiced by “Star Wars” icon Mark Hamill.

The idea of Gen Z denizens going gaga over a life-size doll is straining credulity, especially since this incarnation of Chucky, unlike the previous one, is creepy and crudely drawn from the get-go. (In a sign of irony deficiency, the film stages a gruesome death scene with the victim’s kids oblivious to the mayhem occurring a few feet from them because they’re glued to their phones.)

Director Lars Klevberg has one distinct talent, though: a flair for staging cringe-inducing violence. People get their faces peeled off by lawnmower, their crotches filleted by table saw, their heads scalped by drone… you get the point. The movie is supposed to have a perverse sense of humor, but most of the jokes don’t land. This Chucky should have stayed in the box.

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Photograph from IMDb