Rated R - Running time: 1:35 - Released 10/16/98

For the fourth movie in such a pathetic series as Child's Play, Ronny Yu's Bride Of Chucky is surprisingly funny and hip, and rises well above its predecessors for entertainment value. The acting is mainly terrible (as with the first three films in the series, it is more a showcase for puppetry and animatronics than for acting or directing), but the relationship between the two evil dolls who serve as main characters is funny enough to keep us interested.

Penned by Don Mancini, who has made a career of writing all the Child's Play movies, the film takes the character of Chucky the doll in a new direction from that of his 1988 debut. Then, he was a classically scary concept: a child's plaything gone wrong. Like in The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby, the horror came from the juxtaposition of innocence and evil. Now, 10 years later, Mancini's new Chucky has mellowed into a cute little wise-ass with a bad disposition and a butcher knife. His misdeeds and foul language contrast with his childish (if demonic) expression to produce laughs, not horror, and Mancini has turned up the sarcasm full blast. And now Chucky has a girlfriend who's every bit his equal. They trade good-natured barbs as well as Dan and Roseanne.

Brad Dourif has made a long career of playing strange characters, starting with his portrayal of Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and appearing most recently as the creepy gas station attendant in last month's Urban Legend. His role as the voice of Chucky is probably his most famous, though Child's Play afficionados know that the character is not the doll itself but the spirit of satanic serial killer Charles Lee Ray, whom we met during the opening credits of the 1988 film. As he is being shot by a police officer in a toy store, Ray grabs the first thing he can find--a doll--and calls upon the dark spirits to endow it with his soul. And throughout the following three films, Ray has been trying to get back into a human body, always stymied by those who want to destroy him.

The woman who finds and reassembles the burnt, battered parts of the 10-year-old doll this time is Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), Ray's long-lost girlfriend. After a lover's spat, she locks him up in a cage with a little plastic bride doll, as a cruel joke. But he breaks out, kills her, and transplants her soul into the girl doll. As we watch, the cute little dolly changes from a doe-eyed bride to a leather-jacketed, black lipsticked hellion with bleached-blonde hair and black roots. After a reconciliation of sorts, the two begin a hunt for the amulet buried with Ray's corpse, which can provide them with the power to regain human form and live horrifically ever after.

Integral to their plan is a pair of lovesick teens, Jesse and Jade (Nick Stabile and Katherine Heigl), who not only can provide wheels to the cemetery, but are perfect specimens of young human flesh. Jesse and Jade are good kids, but at every stop on their trip, someone gets killed. The kids become suspects, and even suspect each other, but no one knows it's really the dolls hiding in the back seat who are doing all the mischief.

Bride Of Chucky's good points (its humor and character chemistry) struggle to overcome its bad points (terrible acting and a tiresome, boring love story between Jesse and Jade). The bloody murders are not nearly as horrible to watch as the doll sex scene (yes), but that scene is necessary to set us up for the following sequel. Not to give away the ending, but I'm willing to bet that the next movie will be called Son Of Chucky. ***

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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