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Movie Reviews : Chucky’s Carnage Continues

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Face scrunched into a maniacal leer, eyes glowing with homicidal frenzy, mouth spewing obscenities and vile threats, Chucky the killer doll is on the loose again in “Child’s Play 3" (citywide).

This overall-clad, carrot-headed mechanical tyke--a “Good Guy” talking doll possessed by the soul of a serial murderer--has been shot, decapitated and roasted to a revolting crisp for two “Child’s Play” movies in a row.

Yet, somehow he’s back: Clamoring for another chance to swap souls with the hapless Andrew Barclay, a child in the first two movies and a teen-ager here.

Relentlessly, this never-say-die fiend pursues Andy (Justin Whalin) to an exclusive military academy, pausing only to throw a garbage man into a garbage compacter, spook the headmaster into heart attack, slit the barber’s throat and replace blanks with live ammo for the cadets’ war games.

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Sometimes audiences are hard to figure, and the success of the “Chucky” movies bewilders me. They’re built around a simple idea--an evil cutie-pie doll that talks dirty and kills people--but they elaborate that idea obviously and flatly, with little of the panache of maniacal puppet and doll movies from “Dead of Night” on.

They’re brutal without being too involving, amoral without being witty. And the way they revel in the mix of saccharine imagery and gore suggests “Gremlins” gone haywire or the Grimm brothers reduced to a video game.

The only level of imagination here is visual. In all three movies--which have the same writer and producer, Don Mancini and David Kirschner, but different directors--the sets and camera work are overbright and weirdly skewed, in a style that suggests Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” a movie that is quoted directly in “Child’s Play 2,” in the maze-chase climax.

In some ways, “Child’s Play 3" is the best-directed and visualized of the series. First-time director Jack Bender shows talent, for atmosphere and mood and for drawing out occasional weirdo performances, like Andrew Robinson’s sadistic barber (“Presto! You’re bald!”). But Mancini’s script, here as before, never rises above simple sadistic button-pushing.

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Despite stabs at feminism and equal opportunity--tough girls at military school and Chucky’s new target is black--and snipes at militarism and consumer manipulation, “Child’s Play 3" (rated R for violence and language) is, in most ways, a typical ‘80s big studio product.

It’s a marketing-hook movie, lacquering over a thin script with sometimes spectacular or incongruously sophisticated visuals. And why bother? Why waste any effort creating an elaborate, expressionistic carnival-ride hell for your climax--with mounds of skulls and a great grim reaper scything away--if all you have to stage in front of it is the same old creepy carnage and rah-rah baloney?

‘Child’s Play 3'

Justin Whalin: Andy Barclay

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Perrey Reeves: De Sylva

Brad Dourif: Chucky’s Voice

Andrew Robinson: Sgt. Botnick

A Universal Pictures presentation of a David Kirschner production. Director Jack Bender. Producer Robert Latham Brown. Editor Edward A. Warschilka. Costumes Colby Bart. Music Cory Lerios, John D’Andrea. Production design Richard Swayer. With Jeremy Silvers, Travis Fine, Peter Haskell. Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.

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MPAA-rated R (violence, language).


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