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With: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill (voice), Gabriel Bateman, Brian Tyree Henry, Tim Matheson, David Lewis, Beatrice Kitsos, Trent Redekop, Ty Consiglio, Carlease Burke, Marlon Kazadi
Written by: Tyler Burton Smith, based on characters created by Don Mancini
Directed by: Lars Klevberg
MPAA Rating: R for bloody horror violence, and language throughout
Running Time: 90
Date: 06/22/2019

Child's Play (2019)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Doll Bearer

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This reboot of the "killer doll" slasher series begins with a good, much simpler idea that increases the emotional stakes, and then incorporates human characters with fresh doses of humor and pathos.

In Child's Play, a worker in a factory in Vietnam is fired, but not before he can finish building a "Buddi" doll, and removing all its safety protocols. Meanwhile, Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman) is a lonely, hearing-impaired boy living with his single mother Karen (Aubrey Plaza) in a new town in the U.S. When a defective "Buddi" doll is returned to the store where Karen works, and she decides to give it to Andy.

Named "Chucky" (voiced by Mark Hamill), it immediately begins acting a little odd, promising lifelong friendship with Andy and showing animosity toward Andy's nasty cat Mickey Rooney and toward Karen's not-so-nice boyfriend. But at least Chucky helps Andy to make some new friends, Pugg (Ty Consiglio) and Falyn (Beatrice Kitsos). That is, until the killings start and a neighboring police detective, Mike Norris (Brian Tyree Henry) begins investigating.

The original Child's Play (1988), and all of its six sequels (including the good ones, Bride of Chucky, Curse of Chucky, and Cult of Chucky), used the idea of a mad killer whose soul was magically transferred to a regular Chucky doll and therefore tried to kill everyone. The new Child's Play is more focused on the doll longing to be friends with Andy. It's a small distinction, but Andy's regret as he tries to destroy his toy is quite affecting. (Weirdly, it echoes some of the themes in Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence.)

Meanwhile, Plaza and Henry, and even the young actors, manage to bring subtle humor to their roles, as well as real-world weight. There are actually consequences here. Hamill, who is best known as Luke Skywalker, but also the voice of the Joker in Batman animated cartoons and video games, brings a sweet, sinister tone to Chucky's voice, perhaps a bit confused and angry, rather than merely homicidal.

The movie's pace is light and quick, and the effects seem to be largely practical; the killings are bloody but clever. A drawback is the nasty "Shane" character who is shown to be nothing but a jerk and "deserving" of his gruesome murder. That, and the department store showdown gets a little over-the-top, but otherwise, this Child's Play is actually a fun romp.

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