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MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Child’s Play 2' Plays Up the Horror

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Before the credits are over for “Child’s Play 2" (citywide) Chucky’s back, just like the ads promise. Could there be any doubt that the most malevolent doll of them all would return, considering the box-office success of his first engagement? But his act is one that doesn’t bear repeating.

“Child’s Play” was a sleeper, a terrific one-of-a kind thriller of the supernatural, which began with a Chicago mother’s back-alley purchase of one of those outsized talking dolls she would have otherwise been unable to afford for her son’s 6th birthday. Who could ever expect to guess that trapped inside was the soul of the nefarious Lakeside Strangler? The film played like an exceptionally jolting roller-coaster ride through an especially scary tunnel of love, and scary as it was, it was also darkly funny.

Not so the sequel. It’s an all-out horror film--handsomely produced but morbid and not in the least amusing to watch.

The same little boy (Alex Vincent), now two years older, is again being terrorized by the fiercely blue-eyed Chucky, who now seems possessed by the soul of Satan himself. The film, written by Don Mancini, who wrote the first story, and directed with some pace and energy by John Lafia, becomes predictable and mechanical.

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The reasoning behind the Play Pals toy people in resurrecting Chucky remains perhaps wisely vague, but by golly the pint-sized monster with the pixie Happy Face countenance soon pops up at the large, fine old suburban home of a childless couple (Jenny Agutter, Gerrit Graham) who have become foster parents to a pretty, knocked-about teen-age orphan (Catherine Elise) as well as Vincent, whose mother, played by Catherine Hicks in the first film, remains off-screen in a hospital for long-term psychiatric care.

“Child’s Play 2" merely repeats and amplifies in the extreme the theme of the first film: the eternal problem of children in getting adults to believe them. The film projects a world in which children really are alone and can rely only upon themselves and each other. Muddling the message is that the film’s adults, whom Chucky knocks off like so many bowling pins, are basically concerned and well-meaning, not at all villainous. Would you believe in the existence of a killer doll?

The film belongs to Vincent, a remarkably resilient and tenacious young actor and to newcomer Elise, who has something of the engaging brashness of Britain’s Emily Lloyd. The adults are little more than sitting ducks. Once again Brad Dourif supplies the gleefully hateful voice of Chucky. Even though the film’s R rating permits youngsters to see the film when accompanied by an adult, it is dead certain to give nightmares to any child younger than 12.

‘CHILD’S PLAY 2'

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A Universal presentation. Executive producer Robert Lathan Brown. Producer David Kirschner. Director John Lafia. Screenplay Don Mancini. Co-producer Laura Moskowitz. Camera Stefan Czapsky. Music Graeme Revell. Chucky doll created by Kirschner and designed & engineered by Kevin Yagher. Costumes Pamela Skaist. Mechanical effects Image Engineering. 2nd unit director Yagher. 2nd unit camera Max Pomerleau. Additional camera Jon Kranhouse. Stunt coordinator Dick Warlock. Film editor Edward Warschilka. With Alex Vincent, Jenny Agutter, Gerrit Graham, Christine Elise, Grace Zabriskie.

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes.

MPAA-rated: R (for extreme violence, constant terrorizing of children).


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