Let’s face it. The original “Child’s Play” starts with an absurd premise.
A dying crook uses voodoo to put his soul into the body of a kiddie toy. Even by horror movie standards it’s a joke, and not the ha-ha kind.
The 1988 shocker finds its feet soon after, becoming a sturdy chiller that holds up to repeat viewings.
The 2019 “Child’s Play” remake, which bombed in theaters, boasts an even worse origin story for the ginger-haired moppet. And it only gets worse from there, for both the film and anyone foolish enough to stream it.
Nearly everything about the original “Child’s Play” gets upended in the remake. Aubrey Plaza plays a slacker mom caring for young Andy, unlike Catherine Hicks’ warm maternal presence. The new Andy (Gabriel Bateman) is older than the original version, so the notion he’d even play with a big plastic doll makes no sense.
The film addresses that, albeit badly.
The big twist? The new Chucky doll, part of a line dubbed “Buddi,” is an animatronic wonder who connects to other gadgets in your home, like security systems and lighting. It’s the film’s one big, bold idea, and it’s used to middling effect.
Young Andy warms up to Chucky, but he (so very quickly) realizes this isn’t your ordinary doll. And that’s where the wave of stupid crashes over an already lackluster project. There’s no internal logic to anchor the narrative.
This Chucky is smarter than a T-1000, even though the movie is set in modern day America. The film’s attempt to attack Big Corporations similarly comes up empty.
The new “Child’s Play” embraces everything sour about 21st century culture sans the cinematic advances. In short, director Lars Klevberg (“Polaroid”) hasn’t a clue how to stage a tense sequence beyond de factor horror beats.
There’s gore here, no doubt, but the kills are perfunctory and instantly forgotten.
FAST FACT: Famed critic Roger Ebert enjoyed 1988’s “Child’s Play,” writing that it’s “better than the average False Alarm movie because it is well made, contains effective performances, and has succeeded in creating a truly malevolent doll. Chucky is one mean SOB.”
The remake takes a few wild stabs at humor and mostly comes up empty. Take an extended sequence with a grisly kill hidden as a head-shaped gift. Oh, that sequence goes on forever without any sort of payoff.
Remember how the old Chucky curses out the elderly couple in the original film? That one laugh is superior to every comic morsel on display here.
Klevberg shows a clumsy hand balancing the competing tones, veering from horror to comedy like a stoner who ate two too many edibles.
And poor Mark Hamill, taking over for Brad Dourif as the voice of Chucky. He’s got less than nothing to work with, but you can hear the potential in his line readings.
The film’s best element, by far, is Brian Tyree Henry as the local cop who befriends Andy early in the film. The actor’s gentle charisma, aligned with the screenplay’s only humane element, pop off the screen. Sadly, he figures into the plot less than his predecessor, fellow movie cop Chris Sarandon.
Heck, this clip from the original shows everything that’s missing in the remake. Scares, a sense of surprise and a character worth the screen time:
So why make another “Child’s Play?” To spark a new franchise, of course. Instead, it reminds us how many classic ’80s films prove so hard to duplicate.
Remember the lackluster attempts to update “Fright Night,” “Total Recall” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street?”
Those duds suddenly look respectable compared to the new “Child’s Play.”
HiT or Miss: Movie remakes leave audiences cynical, and for some very good reasons. The new “Child’s Play” lives down to all of them.