One of the goofier horror movies I can remember, if you even think it counts as horror. It's common for a long-running franchise to get a bit silly, but this is something else. This series had me in hysterics as early as Child's Play 2
, was openly just going for the laughs in Bride of Chucky
and is now officially trying too hard. Don't get me wrong. It's still funny. Compared with the Abbott & Costello film I watched yesterday, it's Airplane and Blazing Saddles rolled into one. However for the first time some of the comedy feels forced and unfortunately by now that's pretty much all the franchise has left. I understand they're trying to get back to basics and return to being scary with the upcoming remake, which sounds like a good idea to me.
On paper, it's a good collection of characters. You've got Chucky and Tiffany, still going as a couple after the last film. You've got their anatomically incomplete and dangerously confused offspring, Glen/Glenda. All this is full of potential, but somehow the good stuff never really gets going. There's just not enough story to kick them to life. Chucky spends most of the film basically content with his lot. He's got a wife, a child and plenty of murder opportunities. What more could a homicidal maniac want? Unfortunately this is bad news for us, since Chucky's only good to watch when he's angry and focused on something. A laid-back Chucky is a bland Chucky.
Tiffany is as great as ever, though. She's a far more interesting character than Chucky, given the contradictions inherent in a lovey-dovey psychopath. She's so thrilled to be a mother that it inspires her to try to help herself and Chucky over their little problem. Yes, she sees murdering people as an addiction. (Chucky sees it as a lifestyle choice.) She's hilarious and the only lead character to stay entertaining from first to last.
Glen/Glenda is a freak. He's good at the beginning, with his desperately misconceived assumptions about what his parents must be like. In fact, why does he even think he has parents in the first place? He's a doll. His wrist says, "Made in Japan." What a weirdo. Naturally he assumes his parents must be Japanese and has even learned some of the language, although his accent is terrible. He's also picked up an English accent, a goth complexion and the kind of outlook and albino punk fashion sense that suggests Tim Burton must be coming back to collect him any minute. Even the incidental music sounds like Danny Elfman when he escapes from his captor near the beginning. However there's also another layer of metaphor here, with the gay writer/director Don Mancini saying that he was trying to draw parallels with his own relationship with his father. Hence the transvestite Ed Wood reference.
Unfortunately after a great start, Glen/Glenda becomes forgettable once he's found his parents. He has a family. He's happy, if rather confused. Killing's bad, isn't it? As with Chucky, we have the phenomenon that a character with no goals isn't particularly dramatic... or in this case "funny". Alas that's the purpose of the movie.
So what about the incidental characters? Even the last film remembered to include a couple of humans who were at least ostensibly the heroes of the film. They were likeable and everything. This however is one of those horror movies that's basically about the making of a film in its own series. See also Scream 2
and Nightmare on Elm Street 7
. The last film in the series was a bit self-referential and reminiscent of Scream.
This one is terrifyingly referential and specifically reminiscent of Scream 2
. I should say up front that I'm no great fan of in-jokes and breaking the fourth wall, but what we had here was... okay. Lots of Hollywood gags, both about horror icons and Tinseltown in general. Chucky kills Britney Spears by running her off the road and says, "Whoops, I did it again." You get the idea. I'll admit that some of it's funny, although their Shining gag takes it to the next level by riffing off the fact that this is a movie of self-referential humour in the first place.
Anyway, I was talking about the incidental characters. Are they cute and likeable? Here's a clue: they work in Hollywood. Support people like agents and chauffeurs tend to be sympathetic but unimportant. The big-name talent will be amusing but horrendous examples of humanity and, in an interesting twist, generally playing themselves. There's a movie director called Redman who's played by a rapper called Redman. However best of all is Jennifer Tilly, who's playing both Tiffany's voice and of all people herself, on the grounds that she's doing Tiffany's voice in the movie within the movie. What she does is amazing, not so much for acting ability as for her willingness to wallow in every possible sleazy character flaw. The Tilly of this movie is a talentless, self-delusional slut who throws herself at producers and really talks like that. I'm in awe. Apparently she worked with Mancini to add further jokes at her own expense, such as for instance making cracks about her weight.
Jennifer Tilly comes close to stealing the film away from herself. Respect is due.
Oh, and John Waters has a role! You know, John Waters. Pencil-moustache guy, famous for gleefully trashy films that often star real-life criminals, shit-eating transvestites and underage porn stars. He plays a sleazy reporter and he's awesome.
You can see that Mancini must have thought he was on to a good thing here, but unfortunately the screenplay's stalled by the fact that if you study it, you'll realise it isn't really going anywhere. The Chucky family is like an R-rated sitcom, while it doesn't even occur to you to be scared for the Hollywood folks. They're comedy characters at best. I also think Mancini made a bit of a mistake in directing it himself. It's not that he does an obviously bad job or anything, but I'd like to think that another director might for instance have given Brad Dourif a kick in the pants. He's coasting a bit here, with his final "Atta boy" in particular having less impact than I think it should have had.
Mind you, this script was always going to be lightweight. They have flamboyant fun with the killings, including some entertaining CGI gore, but at the end of the day it's still Chucky: The Domesticated Adventures.
I have some trivial observations. Hollywood appears to be heaving with English accents, although none sound so fake as the first family to die. Mummy, Daddy and little Claudia talk like they're from the RSC and think their new doll is ugly. They're clearly marked for death, although amazingly enough not before Mum's got into the shower. Nudity! In a Chucky movie! Tiffany also flashes hers, but they're plastic. There's also a bizarre CGI title sequence which references the title by following the journey of Chucky's evil sperm.
I'm torn on this film. Much of it works and it contains plenty of laughs, but it's also fundamentally flawed and as I said, trying too hard. By now the voodoo's getting daft too. I don't hate the self-referential gags, but I think I'd have been baying for blood if they'd done them in a third film. Oh, and the ending's silly.