Monday, October 9, 2017

CHILD'S PLAY 3 (1991) - **

Rated R for horror violence and language
Running time: 90 min.
Release date: August 30, 1991

When you go to the movies, your suspension of disbelief must always be checked at the door and then returned to you after you leave. If you're going to see an action film, or a horror film in this case, you have to expect some semblance of unrealistic scenarios. Here with Child's Play 3, you are expected to suspend that disbelief just a little more than what would normally be asked of you. We are, after all, talking about Chucky, the Good Guy Doll That Holds the Soul of a Serial Killer. With that suspension of disbelief removed, you have to have a sense of humor to appreciate most of what is about to unfold. Unfortunately for Child's Play 3, it doesn't give you much to grin about, unlike the first two entries in the series.

The story flashes forward eight years after the conclusion of Child's Play 2. The Play Pals corporation has slowly recovered from the negative press associated with the killings and the decision is made, by the company president, to resume manufacturing of the Good Guy dolls. However, during the opening credits, we see that Chucky's remains left behind in the factory have oozed blood into a fresh vat of plastic that is set to be used on a new line of dolls. Why this doesn't create an entire army of Chucky's is hard to understand, since the blood appears to widely spread into the plastic. But maybe we shouldn't ask questions like that, am I right? Soon after, a brand new Good Guy doll is presented to the CEO as a gift in celebration. Of course, this one contains the soul of serial killer Charles Lee Ray, and we have the first of many victims to come. There is some humor in the sight of Chucky using the company computer to locate Andy Barclay, the boy from the first two films, who is now a teenager in military school. Why the Play Pals company is keeping tabs on Andy is another question for the ether.

Meanwhile, we learn Andy (now played by Justin Whalin) has had trouble adjusting in several foster homes and has been enrolled in military school where he has been told to forget about his past "fantasies" and become a man. We are in familiar territory with this plot element, as Andy is harassed by various superiors, especially Shelton (Travis Fine). There is also the tough chick who doesn't take shit from no one, in this case Kristin (played by Perrey Reeves). She and Andy will, of course, develop feelings for each other soon after meeting. Another kid befriended by Andy is Tyler (Jeremy Sylvers), who is a huge fan of the Good Guy dolls. So much so that when he discovers a package meant for Andy contains a Good Guy, he decides to keep it for himself. This doll, of course, is Chucky, who has mailed himself to the school in hopes of finding Andy so that he may once again attempt to perform the ritual meant to get Chucky out of the doll and into a real body. Chucky decides to use Tyler for that role instead, claiming that "Chucky is gonna be a bro". So with Chucky now on campus, we get the requisite murders of various personnel, including the school barber, Botnick (played with over-the-top zeal by Andrew Robinson). When the annual school war games get under way, which is essentially a paintball exercise, Chucky switches out the paint of one team with live ammunition, leading to more chaos. Eventually, the story really runs out of ideas when it moves to an amusement park for the climax. There are plot holes all over the place from the very beginning and it's clear that screenwriter Don Mancini had no clue where to take the story after the conclusion of Child's Play 2. Also, at this point, there really aren't many scares left leaving no room for surprises. A totally predictable story ends with a scene of someone clinging for their life in an amusement park. So without any fresh ideas here, and the dark humor that made the first film so successful, everything falls flat.

Director Jack Bender is better known as the guy behind the camera for several television series, including Lost, The Sopranos, Alias and most recently Game of Thrones (earning an Emmy nod for the episode "The Door"). Bender devises a clear narrative, but Bender is unable to create any suspense with this screenplay. There was some attempt to inject some humor into the story, mainly using the imagery of a doll performing tasks like using a computer and handling weapons, but overall there is a distinct lack of tone as Bender walks a thin line between comedy and horror, without anything to tip the scales in either direction. The technical aspects surrounding Chucky and his facial and body movements are all still very good, as Chucky is quite convincingly alive on-screen. This has always been one of the great aspects of this entire franchise: the special effects used for Chucky.

When looking at the cast, of course, Brad Dourif always stands out as the voice of Chucky. Menacingly playful and malicious all at once; listening to Chucky swear like a sailor has always been a highlight in my viewing experiences of this franchise. Dourif gives Chucky a soul, no matter how rotten it is, through his excellent vocal work. Justin Whalin is okay as Andy, but there are no light-hearted moments around this character, so Whalin has to play it straight all the time. Perrey Reeves was solid as the girl in a boy's world. Strong, but yet still feminine, she outshone Whalin, who she had zero chemistry with romantically. Jeremy Sylvers, as Tyler, was bright-eyed and enthusiastic but his youth prevented him from selling any of the silly dialogue to the audience. Travis Fine did a great job as Shelton, with equal doses of asshole and contempt. So for the most part, the cast was fine, although the screenplay didn't really help their cause in terms of dialogue.

Child's Play 3 will go down as the low point for the franchise. The combination of humor and horror was missing from this one, and it tried too hard to recapture that, and failed. The high points include Brad Dourif and the special effects surrounding Chucky's movements and facial expressions. Child's Play 3 has one trick, and it's not enough to carry an entire film, which is lacking any discernible tone and relies on too many familiar plot elements to really work. Suspension of disbelief can only take the audience so far before they get bored.

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