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Child’s Play is just okay

2019-07-14 00:01

Child’s Play
Director: Lars Klevberg
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill
. . . - -

The theme of artificial intelligence threatening humankind is well-traversed ground. From Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot to The Matrix trilogy, and Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? to The Terminator, the fear of technology is steeped deeply in our collective conscience. Most recently we saw Black Mirror’s Miley Cyrus episode, where the pop star’s consciousness gets uploaded into a series of purple-haired robot dolls.

An artificially intelligent doll is also the theme of the latest Child’s Play, a reboot of the 80s horror classic starring the evil, ginger-haired Chucky. In this one, mom Karen (Audrey Plaza) buys her son Andy an artificially intelligent Buddi doll to provide some company when they move to a new city. The dolls learn from their environment and can carry conversations, as well as control tech gadgets around them. Think Siri or Alexa on fleek.

But Andy soon discovers there’s something seriously wrong with his doll, which has named itself Chucky and is showing some very violent proclivities.

It’s now up to Andy and his friends to stop Chucky’s murderous spree.

The premise of the film is timeous and sort of in vogue with what film makers are producing nowadays. Andy and his friends fighting the monster is reminiscent of hit series Stranger Things and horror film It, while the existential questions around technology reference Black Mirror and movies such as Unfriended: Dark Web.

But this Chucky lacks the potent fear-inducing malevolence that the previous instalments had. Chucky was scary because Chucky was pure evil, but in this he just feels like a robot who’s gone off-kilter. While this instalment tries to infuse some 80s nostalgia and the same camp horror that made the earlier version so successful, it just doesn’t land.

As Chucky gets further into his horror killing spree and interest in the characters wanes, the violence becomes rote and you might even find yourself tapping your fingers impatiently, waiting for something to connect with again. A Chucky film can be many things, but boring shouldn’t be it.

This week is quite a dismal one for film releases, with lukewarm taxi comedy Stuber, about a guy called Stu who drives an Uber, also on the line-up.

Audiences are likely to save their bucks for the much-anticipated The Lion King live-action remake, which releases next week.

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November 10 2019