Writers: Tyler Burton Smith (screenplay), Don Mancini (original characters)
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill, Gabriel Bateman, Brian Tyree Henry
Running time: 90mins
What’s the story: Single-mum Karen (Plaza) gives 13-year-old son Andy (Bateman) a Buddi doll for his birthday. His initial bemusement turns to terror when it transpires this doll, which answers to Chucky, is murderously malfunctioning.
What’s the verdict: Above all other rules of the slasher film, no.1 is the killer never truly dies. That goes double for killer-doll Chucky, who due to the vagaries of Hollywood copyright laws, is owned by two different companies.
Universal currently has the rights to the original saga (at seven films, we’re calling it a saga). The studio is also backing Chucky creator Don Mancini’s in-development Child’s Play TV series, which will pick up plot threads left dangling at the end of the wonderful Cult of Chucky.
But, MGM clearly held onto some rights from the 1988 original, being involved in this remake. Despite Mancini throwing shade on this other-Chucky, the good news is Child’s Play 2019 is delirious pint-sized mayhem.
Eschewing the supernatural “executed serial killer enters the body of a kids’ doll” premise of the original, this Chucky is upgraded for an app-centric age. Here, the Buddi doll (renamed from the Good Guy doll of Mancini’s version) goes rogue due to a disgruntled employee in a South Korean sweatshop turning off all safety, violence and language guards on a particular Buddi.
Part of the movie’s mad charm is that it doesn’t question why a children’s toy would have such features.
Soon, this defective Chucky is in the care of single-mum Karen (Plaza) and her son Andy (Bateman). And as Chucky becomes increasingly sentient, the bodies start piling up.
Like a psychotic Alexa (so like all Alexas then, trust us, they’re biding their time…), this wired-into-the-grid Chucky deploys automated lighting, heating, power tools and driverless cars against anyone who crosses BFF Andy. Putting him more alongside Arnie’s learning-on-the-job T-100 in Terminator 2 than the psycho of Chucky-classic.
Similarly, Bateman’s Andy is a surly, floppy-haired teen in the Edward Furlong mould, rather than the 6-year-old of the first film.
Like a toddler taking their first steps, the film’s first half hour is wobbly. But, when Chucky finds his feet (and those Andy wishes would go away) this Child’s Play becomes outrageously good fun.
Splatacular OTT horror and bone-shattering injuries deliver the gory goods and a running gag involving a decorated watermelon hits heights of bad taste.
An odd moment suggests Chucky is part inspired by the effect of watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2. Ironic, given copycat violence accusations leveled against Child’s Play 3 in the UK in 1993. But, social commentary is not the filmmakers’ aim here, so we’ll let it pass.
A likeable cast bring charismatic chops to roles that exist to propel the plot into the next slab of gore. Plaza has leading comedienne presence and Brian Tyree Henry is lovably downtrodden as a detective investigating the mysterious bout of slayings.
This being from the producers of IT, Andy gets an engaging gang of fellow teens to help with his deadly doll dilemma.
A character redesign makes this Chucky less cuddly than his predecessor, more Dead of Night ventriloquist’s dummy than something you’d want to actually give a kid. But, Mark Hamill’s vocal acrobatics breathe life into this incarnation. Hamill may not have the acidic profanities of Brad Dourif’s original voicework, but his delivery is killer…
A gloriously gory toy story.