Child’s Play – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: When a disgruntled employee in the factory that creates the Buddi doll, a wifi enabled, learning computer, small toy boy, decides to adjust the setting on the doll, removing all its safety features, it has dire consequences after it ends up in the home of a poor single mother who gets it for her son.

Is it any good?: No. Based on the 1988 film of the same name, this modern update of Child’s Play is another lazy attempt from Hollywood to tap into the nostalgia of the pop culture of the eighties, adding elements of WestWorld and Carrie. There is no good reason to sit through this film. Unless, like myself, you are reviewing it.

Spoiler territory: The Kaslan company, fronted by there founder, Henry Kaslan (Tim Matheson), have created an extremely popular toy, Buddi, that connects to all of Kaslan’s home products. It’s a walking, learning Alexa. Like Alexa, their fictional Buddi doll can connect to all the homes smart devices and control them with an E.T glowing finger, because there was not quite enough eighties nostalgia in the film.

In Vietnam, where the dolls are produced, one of the factory workers (Phoenix Ly) gets bawled out by his supervisor (Johnson Phan) for daydreaming. He is told to finish up with the doll he is working on and to leave. It seems you can get fired in a Vietnam factory for daydreaming, a bit harsh.

The factory worker, peeved by his boss’ treatment of him, removes all of the safety protocols on the CPU that controls one of the dolls. This includes removing the language and behaviour safeguards, also the violence inhibitors.

Violence inhibitors? Why would a doll have violence capabilities? Anyhow, after he removes all the safeguards on the doll and puts it together, he commits suicide by swan diving from a window onto the always conveniently placed parked car that movie corpses land on. This does not slow the doll business and the Buddi dolls are shipped, including his altered one.

In Zed department store, single mother, Karen (Aubrey Plaza), is dealing with a disgruntled customer (Eddie Flake). The man is not happy that the Buddi doll, he has waited three weeks for, has ginger hair and not blond like the picture. Karen tells him that the version he is after is the Buddi 2 – so the upgrade in this film is from the much-maligned ginger hair colour to the Aryan race hair colour of choice. Okay. – the disgruntled customer gets a refund.

Karen returns home and is ogled by the creepy building attendant, Gabe (Trent Redekop). In her home, her son, Andy (Gabriel Bateman), who has a hearing aid, greets her. The two have recently moved and she asks him why he has not unpacked a box. The rest of the apartment seems to be perfectly lived in already. Andy, the ungrateful tike, complains about his broken mobile.

Karen points out to him that she is already doing double shifts to purchase a new hearing aid for him. He says to her that the phone is his primary source of education. Karen takes the phone off of him, threatening not to give it back to him.

He has a screensaver that has a Buddi doll singing on it. Karen is sick of seeing the Buddi doll. She tells Andy that he should make friends. She says she will give him his phone back if he goes out and makes friends. – it’s night time and she wants to send her thirteen-year-old child out to socialise with a couple of kids she spots out of the window. Do not follow parenting advice from this woman!

The next day at the store, another customer returns a Buddi doll. She says it is faulty and she will wait for the new model. Karen asks her supervisor, Wes (Amro Majzoub) if she can take the faulty doll for her son because it is his birthday next week. After some blackmail related coercion, Wes lets her take the doll.

The next day, Andy comes home from school and Karen is with Shane (David Lewis), her boyfriend. Andy does not like Shane. He decides to leave them alone. He goes and sits in the hallway and meets police detective, Mike (Brian Tyree Henry) who he asks what he is doing in the corridor. Mike’s mum, Doreen (Carlease Burke), comes into the hallway and calls for him to come in. Mike comets visit his mother for dinner once a week.

Karen comes and finds Andy speaking with Mike in the corridor. Mike introduces himself, telling her he is a detective. Karen and Andy return home. She tells him she has a surprise and gives him the faulty Buddi doll. Andy is initially underwhelmed by the doll but switches it on and connects it to his phone. The doll comes on and scans him, imprinting Andy to its memory.

The doll talks and Andy wants to call it Hans Solo but the doll thinks he says Chucky (Mark Hamill) because the names sound so similar obviously. Andy is frustrated that the doll does not seem to work properly. Karen reads the instructions and tells him he needs to download data from the cloud for it to integrate with all the Kaslan systems.

It still does not work properly but Andy, not wanting to offend his mother, takes it to his room – it walks along like a small child – and shows the doll around. Andy gets ready for bed and Chucky asks if he wants to sing the Buddi song. Andy declines but the doll sings it anyway. Chucky asks if they are going to have fun the next day. Andy hesitantly says yes.

Andy turns over in the middle of the night to find Chucky staring at him. The doll starts singing again. As he gets ready for school the next day, Chucky copies his movements. When Andy returns from school, Chucky is waiting at the front door. Shane is with his mother again. Andy rants about Shane, convinced he will leave them eventually. Chucky tells him he will never leave him.

Andy is playing a board game with Chucky when one of the pieces fall to the floor next to the cat. When he goes to pick up the piece, the cat scratches him. Andy goes to clean the scratch and get a plaster. When he returns to Chucky, he finds the doll strangling the cat. Andy stops him killing the cat. He tells him that he can’t keep doing weird things. Shane comes and tells him to clean up his room. Andy decides to play a trick on him with Chucky.

Whilst Andy works on getting Chucky to make scary expressions, Falyn (Beatrice Kitsos) and Pugg (Ty Consiglio), two local kids, come and meet him. Pugg swears in front of the doll and it repeats his expression. Pugg and Falyn are surprised because they think it should not be able to swear. Andy tells them the doll does what it likes. No alarm bells there then.

He tells them that he plans to scare Shane. Pugg and Falyn are immediately on board. They scare Shane and the three begin to hang out together. Andy watches an extremely violent horror film with Falyn and Pugg and all three laugh at the excessive violence. Chucky, who is watching the film, goes and grabs a kitchen knife. He slices Andy when he tries to restrain him.

The next day, Chucky turns up on the kitchen counter. He repeats Andy’s words about Shane, calling him an asshole. Karen tells Andy that she is going to restrict his time with the doll to an hour a day. She puts Chucky in a cupboard. Andy goes to school. When he returns home, Chucky has killed the cat. He tells Andy he killed the cat because it made Andy unhappy.

Andy gets rid of the cat’s corpse. Chucky goads Shane again and Shane takes it out on Andy thinking he is messing about with him. He confronts Andy and asks what his problem is with him. Andy tries to call his mother but Shane stops him. Chucky records it all. Karen and Shane row about him telling off Andy. Shane goes home. He puts on his wedding ring. He has a wife and family.

Later in the evening, Shane goes to take down some Christmas lights from around the house’s gutter. Whilst he is on the ladder, it gets knocked from under him. He falls and breaks both legs. Prostate on the ground, Chucky starts up a bladed lawnmower. Shane tries to scramble to his mobile. He is forced to stop as he has to hold the mower to stop it from going into his head.

Chucky walks on to his chest brandishing a kitchen knife. Shane lets go of the mower and gets killed by the mower, it chopping into his head and skull. Chucky stabs him multiple time to make sure he is dead. Andy wakes up to find Shane’s severed head looking at him from his dresser. Chucky tells him they can play now.

A spooked Andy calls Falyn and Pugg. They decide to warp the head in wrapping paper. As they are leaving, they are stopped by Karen. Andy tells her that he got a gift for Doreen. She insists that they go and give it to her. Andy goes and gives her the head and Doreen, for some reason only known to her, plays along with his ruse, even agreeing not to open it until his birthday.

The three kids get Chucky and Falyn pulls out his power supply. Andy throws him in the garbage. Gabe finds the discarded doll in the garbage and decides that he can make some money by repairing it. Detective Mike tells Karen that Shane is dead. Later, Andy goes to dinner with Doreen and Mike.

Gabe, who has cameras on everybody in the building, leaves a partially animated Chucky on the table. Chucky watches Andy talking to Doreen about a driving app. Gabe finishes fixing Chucky and is distracted as he watches Karen undressing in her bathroom. Chucky interrupts the video signal and kills Gabe in gruesome fashion.

Omar (Marlon Kazadi), another kid on the block, ends up with Chucky. The kids all go to the Zed store for the launch of the new Baddi doll model. Chucky tells Andy that if he won’t be his friend he won’t be anybody’s friend. Andy tries to destroy the doll but Omar comes and stops him. The two fight. Andy ends up with Omar’s mobile, which is linked to Chucky. He sees the doll go after Doreen through the car app.

Chucky controls the driverless taxi that Doreen orders. He takes her to a car park and crashes her into a parked car. He then kills her with a kitchen knife. Andy tries to tell his mom about Chucky but she does not believe him and takes Omar’s phone to give it back to him. When she returns, she finds Andy smashing up the furniture.

Falyn thinks Andy might be telling the truth and gets Omar’s phone off of him to check the video feed. They see that Chucky is after Andy. Andy is at the new Buddi doll launch because Karen is working. Mike is told they found the head of Shane. Mike recognises the wrapping paper and heads to the Zed store and handcuffs Andy.

A worker in a Buddi costume gets stabbed in the neck by Chucky. As Mike goes to help him, Chucky takes over the store. And the lighting. Chucky begins to kill people with drone helicopters, using the blades to slice up the now frightened patrons of Zed. They start running for the exits and Chucky begins to shut down the store.

A new Buddi doll, that is furry and looks like a bear, comes to life and goes after Andy. Falyn smashes and frees Andy from the handcuffs. Andy, Falyn and Pugg go to escape the store but Chucky takes Karen hostage. Andy goes back for his mother. Chucky puts a noose around Karen’s neck, the rope attached to a hydraulic crane, slowly rising. He goes to kill Andy. Andy starts singing to distract him and knocks him off to one side. Andy goes to try and cut his now dangling mother down.

Chucky attacks him again, leaving Karen hanging by the neck with both Andy and Chucky hanging on the rope above her. Andy cuts the rope and they all fall to the floor. Andy stabs Chucky through the chest with a kitchen knife and then goes looking for his mother. Chucky comes back at Andy, flying through the air at him. Mike shoots him. Karen rips the doll’s head off.

The kids smash the remnants of Chucky and burn them. Zaslan comes on television and denies any culpability for the issues with the Buddi doll. As a store person puts a doll on the shelf, its eyes flash red. The end.

Child’s Play is rubbish and an absolute waste of time. The original version is not even very good but was at least novel for its time and spawned several sequels. This ‘re-boot’ – a lazy excuse for a film – adds nothing and does not improve on the original even slightly. Unlike the remake of Carrie, which was up against a horror classic, Child’s Play actually had scope for improvement.

Instead, written by Tyler Burton Smith from a story by Don Mancini, the writer of the original film, Smith makes very little effort to stamp his own personality on proceedings. The script is pedestrian at best, with many of the story elements making very little sense.

Some of the killings are shoved in just to make up the numbers – Gabe, Doreen – the Korean opening was nonsensical, taking the safety elements off of a toy as though it were a nuclear missile.

If the film had gone for parody it might have worked. Directed by Lars Klevberg – who also directed the far better Polaroid – walks us through this horror by numbers, with barely any of the scares working and easily predictable. The acting is fine given the material and nobody on show is noticeably awful but I suspect that, unless they were big fans of the original, most of the adults at least only turned up for the pay cheque.

Child’s Play is a lazy, uninspired, pointless remake of an okay horror that did not need to be remade. Definitely, one to give a miss.

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