The reasonably fun Child’s Play fulfills the hard-R quota

Aubrey Plaza buys her son the wrong toy in this remake of the 1988 doll from hell slasher. Purists may cry blasphemy, Aaron Yap writes, but there’s enough R-rated fun for everyone else in this tech-runs-amok reboot.

Child’s Play without Don Mancini and Brad Dourif? Even as an ardent horror fan who’d like to remain open where possible with regards to contemporary reboots, I believe this one’s edging into borderline/dicey territory of being unthinkable.

Beginning with the first Child’s Play in ‘88 and continuing for another six sequels, the distinctive partnership between Mancini (writer) and Dourif (voice) birthed one of horror-dom’s most enduring characters in the demon doll Chucky. It’s also among the most oddly consistent of all horror franchising. Together, they maintained a creative continuity where others have failed. Divorced from its crucial source DNA, this version, directed by sophomore director Lars Klevberg, is an iffy, absolutely unnecessary Child’s Play movie. For the non-puristic, it’s reasonably fun, a fast-paced tech-runs-amok romp that carries traces of the franchise’s warped, camp sensibility.

Call it Charlie Brooker’s Small Soldiers. Tyler Burton Smith’s script could be interchangeable with any late-season Black Mirror episode, swapping out the primal terror of the original’s supernatural possession for laboriously present-day concerns that take aim at our lust for endless connectivity and convenience. The hysterical, cackling irreverence of Dourif’s Chucky is nowhere to be found, and while Mark Hamill’s impishly sinister take on what happens when robot code goes bad isn’t technically awful as such, it simply doesn’t turn the dial.

A handful of gruesomely tongue-in-cheek setpieces fulfill the hard-R quota satisfyingly, but if you’ve come to see a movie about a freckled, ginger-haired evil doll saying “Fuck you bitch!”, this isn’t it. This Chucky’s here to warn you about the impending robopocalypse, the day your Alexa’s going to turn on you and you’ll regret ever teaching your nana how to use Uber.