The reboot/retool train is about to depart so please will you take your seat, next stop Chucky 2.0. Yes, the maniacal, mass-murdering child’s toy with the spirit of a dead serial killer intertwined with it is back only this time, in 2019, things are little, well, Y2K. The plastic still remains (planet be damned), but this “child’s play thing” is a different package all together for now it’s got something even more sinister going on inside: artificial intelligence. Feeding into humanity’s incessant want to have everything connected, this new “Buddi” is smarter, deadlier and – whisper it – actually a lot more fun.
Eat your heart out Alexa, there’s a new toy in town, one that’s just as capable of switching channels, ordering food and commandeering taxis, only this one may or may not want to kill you should you not be its best buddy. “Buddi” is the new hot device on the market, a kid’s toy at first glance but one that’s able to help simplify life for you, taking the pressure off you having to remind you that you need milk. They are flying off the shelves and, seizing her opportunity to grab one that’s “faulty”, Karen (Aubrey Plaza) surprises her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) to help ease his anxieties after their move to a new city for a fresh start. But unbeknownst to them, this Buddi is special, and free from his technological filters and limitations soon begins to exact bloody revenge on those who aren’t his or Andy’s best buddies.
The 1988 original, and indeed its subsequent sequels, not least those brought to us from director Don Mancini, have developed quite a following over the years, so much so that much disapproval was vented when a remake was suggested, particularly one that retconned the series onto a blank slate. But despite those negative comments, Child’s Play 2019 does something quite remarkable: it’s actually just as hilariously silly and over-the-top, both in comedy and horror, as those that have come before it and stands as a worthy addition to the franchise.
There’s some fun digs at corporate America and our constant fascination with device “head-down” millennial culture, with Hamill having the time of his life as the unhinged and unfiltered doll, mixing his Joker voice with a new insane edge, saving the somewhat uninspired yet effective new Chucky. It’s certainly fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously but there’s also some notes of tackling harder subjects such as single parent life on the breadline, bullying and domestic abuse that give the film a darker edge. Both don’t always mesh but they give it a good stab.
In fact, in some ways it has a little in common with Brightburn, also out this week, in that it somewhat subverts the story of E.T., keeping some similarities with the ‘otherworldly’ friend with the glowing finger but making him sinister and anything but a true best friend. Indeed, there’s much of the 80’s embedded in this one, with nods to Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, IT, The Thing, Stranger Things and the aforementioned Extra Terrestrial.
It doesn’t break any real ground in telling a new, unique Child’s Play tale but what it does well is embrace the nonsensical madness of the original and gives it a 21st century makeover. It’s a fun if forgettable slice of summer horror, fuelled by the superb turn by Luke Skywalker at the film’s heart.