The Child’s Play remake adopts the original film’s premise, but makes some major changes that are ultimately for the better. Chucky’s existence becomes rooted in reality, and the supporting characters feel like real people rather than archetypal genre creations.
Created by Don Mancini, the Chucky franchise kicked off in 1988. Six more installments were released over the following 20 years, all of which were produced by David Kirschner and featured Brad Dourif as the voice of Chucky. Since MGM owns the rights to the original movie, they were able to reboot the franchise, while Mancini and Kirschner have developed their own television series for SyFy. In the new Child’s Play, Mark Hamill voices Chucky, and Brian Tyree Henry plays Detective Mike Norris. In addition, Aubrey Plaza and Gabriel Bateman star as Karen and Andy Barclay, who become the owners of their very own Buddi doll. The Chicago setting remains the same, along with the basic story concept: a toy doll transforms into a killer.
While the core concept might be the same and the Child's Play reboot features familiar characters, it's a full reboot rather than a sequel, and this innovative approach to the franchise works out in its favor. Here are some of the biggest changes from the original Child's Play.
Voodoo Vs. Advanced Technology
The original Child’s Play uses a supernatural subplot to explain Chucky’s motivations. A gritty opening sequence shows serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Dourif) being chased by Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon). Within a matter of minutes, Ray breaks into a toy store and transfers his soul into a Good Guys doll, thanks to a Haitian voodoo spell. Part of the fun of the rest of the movie is knowing that a foul-mouthed creep is speaking through a smiley doll. In Child’s Play, Chucky kills because, well, that’s what Ray does: he’s a serial killer. But Ray’s motivations are connected directly to voodoo, along with the all the rules that he must obey to become human once again.
In Child’s Play 2019, the premise is more believable. A disgruntled Kaslan Products employee changes the artificial intelligence settings for a Buddi doll, lifting the inhibitions on violence, foul language, and other aberrant behaviors. One can argue about the programming specifics, and why violence would be part of the equation to begin with, but the concept itself eliminates the need for explanatory sequences: no voodoo, no problem. Chucky is an A.I. doll that records audio and video in order to be a better friend, and that’s all the viewer needs to know. From there, the film can explore all the possibilities associated with Chucky’s unique existence.
The shift from voodoo to advanced technology affects the pacing for Child’s Play 2019. A.I. Chucky operates more efficiently because he’s not bound by time like Charles Lee Ray. Instead, he’s focused on finding more about himself and humans - and learning all the wrong lessons. Chucky is programmed to be a friend, but a simple twist of fate means that he’s destined to react violently in certain situations. And because Chucky likes violence, he becomes increasingly diabolical from act to act. By the end, Chucky survives because he can’t be smashed to smithereens or burned to ashes. Chucky lives in the Kaslan cloud system, a fascinating concept that allows the franchise to veer off in numerous directions, at least in terms of where Chucky can go, and how he can influence others. The original Child’s Play establishes Chucky as a violent hacker, and the new film does the same, just with a timely digital twist.
An Aged Up Andy Barclay
Andy Barclay is six years old in the original Child’s Play, which means that he isn't all that smart. In fact, Child’s Play uses Andy’s naivety to push the narrative forward. Since Chucky operates and kills under the radar, authorities believe that Andy may by responsible, and probably has some psychological issues. The film builds towards Andy being a suspect right up until the final act, even though viewers know that he’s innocent. Child’s Play spends a lot of time underlining the fact that Andy is just a kid, and the character ultimately receives a final line that feels a bit contrived and out of character: “This IS the end… friend.”
In the new Child’s Play, Andy Barclay is 13 years old and less naive. He’s more cognizant about his mother’s problems than 1988 Andy, and he’s naturally a sympathetic character because of his hearing impairment. The original film shows that Andy is underwhelmed when his mother gifts him with clothes, but also that he’s excited to receive a Good Guys doll. In contrast, Child’s Play 2019 shows Andy being underwhelmed because he received a doll. This benefits the plot because there's an arc to Andy's relationship with Chucky - at first unenthusiastic, but then coming to bond with the doll because he lacks real friends. Andy’s age helps the film because he’s old enough to consider the larger picture, but young enough to be easily influenced.
Stern Detective Mike Vs. Relatable Detective Mike
Much like Andy is simply a Kid with a capital K in the original Child’s Play, Detective Mike Norris is a Cop with a capital C. He’s hard-nosed film noir type who’s focused solely on the work and catching the bad guy. Detective Mike is skeptical about Karen’s claims, and he even lurks in the darkness behind her at one point. Child’s Play presents Detective Mike as a masculine figure, a practical-thinking man who needs hard evidence to change his opinion about a case. This story beat works because it makes Karen a sympathetic figure as she tries to prove that her son is not a little psychopath, but rather just a naive kid.
In Child’s Play 2019, Detective Mike is much more approachable and relatable. Detective Mike's mother lives in Andy and Karen's building, and he visits her a lot, so we first encounter him as a loving son and a friendly presence rather than a cop chasing a killer. Mike empathizes with Andy after seeing him in the hallway so many times, as a result of his Karen’s relationship with a new boyfriend. For the vulnerable 13-year-old Andy, Detective Mike represents an authoritative male figure that he can respect and learn from, someone to lean on in a time of need. By showing different sides of Detective Mike, Child’s Play 2019 gives the character more depth - making it all the more tragic when Chucky kills Mike's mother.
Secret Maneuvering Vs. Digital Trolling
The original Child’s Play creates suspense by holding back with the Chucky personality reveal. It's clear that he’s killing folks, but viewers don’t immediately see the doll in action. By the time Karen discovers that Chucky doesn’t have any batteries, the serial killer Ray reveals himself with a slur of profanity-laced insults. From that point forward, Chucky just needs to evade authorities and find the right amount of time to put a spell on Andy. In Child’s Play, Chucky is efficient because nobody knows what the hell is going on.
In the new Child’s Play, we follow Chucky's transformation from a simple-minded doll with good intentions into a full-blown serial killer - starting with Chucky strangling Andy's cat in a misguided attempt to protect Andy. What's unique about Child’s Play 2019 is that Chucky doesn’t fully understand himself, at least not at first. He learns by processing audio and video recordings, along with the reactions of Andy’s friends while viewing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Though the factory worker may have removed his inhibitions, Chucky is really a monster created by the people around him, who accidentally teach him that people are entertained by violence (a fun bit of meta-commentary on the horror genre). Once his dark nature is fully unleashed, Chucky uses audio and video recordings to torment people, pushing the movie's techno-horror premise in creative directions.
A Contained World Vs. An Expansive World
The original Child’s Play takes play in Chicago. It’s grimy and cold. Characters lurk in the dark and navigate sketchy neighborhoods. The film doesn’t have an internet subplot, of course, which means that it focuses on real life actions and consequences. Andy is detained because he seems like a weird kid. Karen visits creepy buildings because she needs information. Child’s Play effectively creates a specific world with its contained setting; the characters live and die on Chicago’s south side. The city itself is a character.
Child’s Play 2019 immediately takes the story from Chicago to Vietnam, and one malicious act by a rogue employee has deadly consequences across the world. Though the majority of the film takes place in Chicago, by the end, it’s implied that Chucky managed to survive thanks to his connection to the cloud. Chucky won’t necessarily be contained to a Chicago existence; he can operate outside his body and use technology to go anywhere - creating some seriously rich sequel potential.