The Mucky Chucky
It takes a certain level of messy that, when I’m in the middle of watching a film, I’m just thinking about how problematic the story is. That was me when watching the 2019 take on Child’s Play, a film so frustrating on so many levels that I’m unsure how much is intentional.
Because it has to be, right?
A fresh take and something of a”remake” of the classic franchise, the 2019 take on Child’s Play is relatively unrelated to the original movie and associated spin-offs; sure, there’s an evil doll called Chucky and a kid named Andy.
But the film feels like an original and unrelated product that has been reworked and amended in order to acquire the names and themes of a larger and more successful franchise.
That’s my roundabout way of saying that this is a rather bad film, that I want and need to talk about at length so as to get my head around how fucking bad we’re talking.
I use the word “bad” unfairly, perhaps? Maybe problematic is more appropriate? Challenging? Irritating? Infuriating? Insert many, many more synonyms here.
While the early Child’s Play series follows a killer human who has avoided death by putting his personality into the form of a doll, this take on the franchise tries that little bit harder to create some sort of social commentary on supply and demand, with the film opening on a production line where an overworked (and underpaid) man gets rebuked over his work on the Buddi robot-AI-type-toy-thing that is aimed at being a long-time friend for children eight and over. In a middle-finger statement towards his employers, this man refuses (or maybe just forgets) to install a driver into the toy and then commits suicide.
When we cut to the USA, a cranky shopper returns his malfunctioning Buddi to the store where Karen (Aubrey Plaza) works and, rather than returning the robot to the distributors, Karen acquires the doll as an early birthday gift for her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman.) Although such an act goes completely against the company’s policy, Karen’s resting bitch-face and snarky attitude means that the toy is now hers, thanks to her subtle reminders that she knows about her colleague’s extra-marital affair that she definitely wouldn’t tell his wife about.
When Andy activates the doll, attempting to sync with its cloud-servers and link with its new owner, we’re treated to a few glitches that suggest that Andy’s new Buddi (voiced by Mark Hamill) may be about to cause some trouble, not least because of its inability and unwillingness to accept its newly assigned name correctly, and taking on the name of Chucky.
The film goes out of its way to create an unusual, and somewhat inconsistent, relationship between Karen and Andy; there are still some unpacked boxes lying around their apartment after their recent move, both of them ready and willing for their “new start.” But while Andy is encouraged to make friends, being the new kid in the neighbourhood, Karen appears well settled into her job at the local department store and deep into her relationship with Shane (David Lewis.)
Karen is so deep into her relationship with Shane that Andy returns home twice to interrupt them in the middle of getting intimate in the living room, an act that neither Karen nor Shane seem all that embarrassed by.
It’s a level of awkward that only seems to work for the point of continuing a narrative of Andy’s discomfort. The films does little to establish or prove any familial relationship between Karen and Andy; the film suggests that Andy was born when Karen was 16 and that it’s been a tough time for them both, but the film completely avoids touching on the hows and whys of that “tough time” and there is no air-clearing for either of them. The film briefly mentions a family photo that shows Karen, Andy and a father figure (before Andy hides the photo); similarly, Andy wears hearing aids, but neither of these really address anything more than a plot point. In a similar “just because” fashion, the film never truly establish the role that Shane might play in their life.
Shane , it appears, has been on the scene for some time, time enough that he’s used to sitting and watching TV in the apartment and helping himself to beers. When Shane admonishes Andy for some cruelty towards the cat (cruelty that’s actually been caused by Chucky, who later kills the cat, leaving the body to be disposed of by Andy), Karel tells Shane in a somewhat polite way that such comments are not his place, and she’ll have such conversations herself. Shane storms off while Andy loudly tells Chucky how much he hates Shane.
You know where this is going, right?
The conversation between Karen and Shane works appropriately in a “newly developing family” type of way, until Shane makes a phone-call about how busy he is at work, drives home to his daughters and their mother, puts his wedding ring back on, and then moans about how he has to take the Christmas lights off the outside of the house.
That’s when Chucky arrives and arranges Shane’s death in a roundabout lengthy fashion. It’s the first bit of the film that actually proves enjoyable and entertaining to watch, worthy of a place in the Final Destination franchise.
The fact that Shane’s death takes place while his daughters play with small screens (while wearing their headphones) adds to that fun and makes the scene interesting to watch,continuing that subtext that involves screen-time.
But I also can’t help but wonder why Shane’s taking down the Christmas lights WHILE THEY’RE STILL LIT.
Shane’s death is attended to by Detective Mike Norris (Brian Tyree Henry), a cop whose mother just happens to live in the same building as Karen and Andy. In a hilarious beat of dark humour that is undeserved for the bullshit the film has served thus far, Chucky cuts off Shane’s face and presents it as a gift to Andy who then tries to dispose of it. But, when caught in the middle of doing so, Andy suggests that the wrapped item he’s trying to dispose of is a gift for Norris’ mother, Doreen.
Oh, such lols I tells ya.
By this stage, Andy (thanks to Chucky) has made friends with some other kids in the building who like to sit around watching horror movies together. You know, films they’re probably too young to be watching. That beat continues that suggestion that maybe, just maybe, these horror films aren’t suitable or appropriate for kids.
Similarly, when Andy introduces the kids to the bits of dead body he has been presented with, they all know they need to get rid of Chucky. There is no sensible “let’s talk to an adult” talk from any of the kids.
But, like the last time, it is nothing more than a beat; if Child’s Play might be attempting to suggest that horror and the internet have desensitised a generation to death, it just doesn’t work well enough at this beat.
Continuing this surreal story wherein a couple of kids are aware of a monster toy robot, Chucky gets decommissioned by the kids who then chuck him into the building’s rubbish. Only for the doll to be found by the building’s creepy care-taker Gabe, played by Trent Redekop.
Let’s not pretend like this guy doesn’t look the spit of Jake Black.
And it’s not just me saying that. In an attempt to search the actor, my Google Chrome auto-added a search for the two men together which threw me down a wiki-spiral reminding me of Jack Black’s appearance in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.
I’m not sure if this spiral is intentional or not, but it’s certainly proven more interesting than Child’s Play did.
When Gabe easily rebuilds Chucky with the goal of re-selling the doll, Chucky uses his AI “powers” to control the devices around the room, leading to Gabe’s death. But only after Gabe has been revealed to be a creepy sex-fiend who has cameras set up in most of the building and who stops his Chucky re-build so he can jerk off to Karen getting into the shower.
It’s okay, though; his cameras are so shit that they’re only in black and white.
But why the fuck does this guy also have a camera set up in Doreen’s apartment? Don’t get me wrong, if you’re gonna be into your kinks, embrace that shit dude. But…why is the camera set up at Doreen’s dinner table? This caretaker likes watching his young mothers getting into the shower, but his taste for older women is solely when they’re sitting down and having a nice meal. Now that is some fucking kinky shit.
Chucky poses as another Buddi in the building so there can be some more random childish dramatic bullshit that skews far too fucking young for a film that is rather gorey and then progresses to kill off its polite, lovable grandmother character.
Again, this is carried out by Chucky’s control over tech that is produced by the same company as he is. This could be used as a subtle challenge and analysis of branding and marketing. And maybe, some part of the film wants to go there, with the film reaching its climax when Karen is forced to work late (and drags Andy into work with her so she can keep an eye on him) for the launch of the new Buddi 2 toy in a proper Black Friday style launch night.
But if the film is all an analysis of branding and marketing and their cold place in the world, then why is this happening after Shane has died whilst taking down the Christmas lights.
Maybe there was some line of dialogue that I missed (or wilfully ignored) in here. But still.
This combines to give Child’s Play a messy finale wherein Chucky isn’t the only evil robot knocking around the shop, with kids and adults alike ending up sort-of working together to defeat the villain after finally realising that Andy isn’t the reason for all this evil shit.
Except for the fact that Chucky is still a robot who just wants to be loved, really. So therefore, some of the other evil shit that is so inappropriate and horrible is just triggered and caused by real people?
After all, it’s not like Chucky wasn’t doing it because he was sort of encouraged to do it, right?
The film isn’t good enough to apply a nature-versus-nurture analysis to an attempt at a horror film that involves using a kids toy and corporate greed and marketing as an evil enemy.
The film isn’t even good enough for these couple hundred words and the time I’ve spent putting them together.