By the time Bride of Chucky was released, in 1998, it had been seven years since the last entry in the Child’s Play franchise. That movie, Child’s Play 3, had made a profit, and it was a better film than the first sequel, but it was clear that things were beginning to slip. Franchise fatigue was setting in. Series creator Don Mancini and producer David Kirschner must have recognized this. Their series was a contemporary of franchise slasher giants Friday the 13th, Halloween, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Surely Mancini and Kirschner saw the depths these franchises sank to in search of a cheap buck, and perhaps they decided that wasn’t for them. Whatever the thinking behind the fourth film in the Child’s Play franchise, Mancini and Kirschner did a brave thing when they decided to pivot and embrace the black comedic elements of the possessed killer doll Chucky, and make a film unlike the previous films.
Critics weren’t that impressed. Funny enough, the general consensus from critics is that it was a mistake to abandon the things that worked in the first three films for an embrace of dark humor. That seems weird to me, as, had the filmmakers not done so, Child’s Play would have been just another horror franchise that limped into caricature and irrelevancy. Had that happened, critics would have excoriated the series for a lack of originality. You can’t have it both ways, critics.
No more Andy Barclay in this flick. The child protagonist of the first three films was cast aside, thrown overboard, cut loose, and whatever other nautical slang there is for freeing oneself of dead weight. It was a wise move on Mancini’s part when he wrote this film. These flicks are not about Andy Barclay. They’re about Chucky. Say it again. Chucky Chucky Chucky. It doesn’t matter who he chases down, as long as he chases somebody.
Directed by Ronny Yu, this film follows Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif) and newcomer to the series Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly). Tiffany was, once upon a time, Charles Lee Ray’s would be fiancé. Viewers of the first three films will recall that it is the spirit of serial killer Charles Lee Ray that is inhabiting the Chucky doll.
Tiffany gets ahold of the bits and pieces of Chucky left over from his last clash with Andy Barclay and pieces him back together in her trailer, so they can continue their romance. Chucky isn’t the best boyfriend, however, and he ends up in a cage. He escapes, kills Tiffany, and recites the same voodoo spell he used to invade the Chucky doll and sends Tiffany’s soul into one of the dolls in her creepy collection. Shoe’s on the other foot, now, huh?
Tiffany and Chucky. Chucky and Tiffany. Ready to spend their days in bliss, together, as dolls? Not quite. The two hatch a plan to take over the bodies of two star-crossed teenaged lovers, in Jesse and Jade (Nick Stabile and Katherine Heigl).
The two of them are running away together because Jade’s uncle and guardian, Warren (John Ritter), hates Jesse. This is a big problem for the two of them because Warren is the local police chief, and has no qualms about abusing his authority.
The four of them, two unaware humans and two dolls, set off on a road trip to New Jersey, for reasons explained in the movie. Along the way, Chucky and Tiffany pile up bodies, and Jesse and Jade become fugitives from the law, Bonnie and Clyde style. The two teens are so vapid, however, that they never piece together what is really happening until the final act, each suspecting the other of carrying out the killings behind each other’s backs.
None of this is played straight. The entire film is tongue-in-cheek, and that works very, very well. The character of Chucky has always been high absurdity, but the previous films always circled around this fact without ever truly diving in.
In this film, however, Chucky has a foil in Tiffany. Her character is a great addition to the series, as the interplay between Chucky and Tiffany was a delight, and made for the best humor. The two have great chemistry together, and that’s saying something considering they’re both dolls. Dourif and Tilly both gave fine voice performances, and Tilly even managed to show her chops as an actress in the opening act.
The change in direction — humor over horror — is what makes this film work. Yu and company kept the film tight and moving, while Mancini provided his best screenwriting to date. I like this movie so much that it is, to this point, the best franchise sequel I’ve watched for this year’s Horrorshow.
To all the critics that poo-pooed this film, I say, “Pshaw!” Away with thee. This flick is fun, enjoyable, with a silly story told well. What more do you want?