Better than the first Puppet Master, but it's also quite good too!
Maybe it helped that I hit "play" with low expectations, but I had fun with this. We start in a churchyard, with the puppets digging up a grave. Cool! The evil puppets are the real heroes of these movies and here they have a plan. That caught my interest from the start - and what's more, kept hold of it by not forgetting about the puppets' existence until the half-way mark.
Then we've got the incidental characters, who are better than the original's bitchy sad acts in that you're not begging for them to die horribly. They're attractive, reasonably acted and sensibly conducting their investigations with the help of computers and video cameras. The problem with psychics as the heroes of your movie (see Puppet Master 1) is that it doesn't take any intelligence to have information beamed straight into your brain from the script (courtesy of the box marked "plot convenience"). These guys have to work for their information and they're going about it the right way. I like 'em already!
Toulon is a fun character, especially when playing gooseberry to the romantic antics of less deformed cast members. I also particularly enjoyed the little boy's cameo, for two reasons. Firstly, he says "Die Nazi scum" while pretending to be Indiana Jones, thus quietly keeping alive this series's Nazi mini-theme going on in the background. Secondly, he's an annoying git and you know he'll die soon. It's a good feeling!
Even the little things are present and correct. There's a Gratuitous Tit Shot courtesy of Charlie Spradling, but if you don't swing that way, there's male flesh on view too (though not frontally, thank goodness). The puppets get more to do and the new one is lots of fun. The gore is better than last time. There's a period flashback (yay!), which again provides the film's classiest sequence even with the production values visibly creaking. More and more I'm liking the sound of Puppet Master III, which appears to be basically one long period flashback. Okay, maybe that's just my personal preferences.
There are flaws, but they're forgiveable. The acting is sometimes dodgy, but endearingly so. Gotta love that fat redneck farm lady! There's also a plot implausibility whereby after one disappearance and one head-drilling murder, not only do our heroes not leave the hotel immediately (I just about bought that) but they invite someone else to stay too (nope, a stretch too far).
I thought this was fun, but don't go thinking it's a masterpiece or anything. It sometimes feels a little long even at 88 minutes, while there's a lot of potential in killer puppets which this series hasn't even tried to tap yet. These things ain't scary, just simultaneously cute and homicidal. Really it's just amiable nonsense, but at least this time there's some charm in the film that's been hastily wrapped around the eponymous anti-heroes.
And I admit it - those are charismatic puppets.