No one's going to revoke your membership in the American Film Institute if you've never subjected yourself to any of the previous entries in the "Child's Play" series of devil-doll-on-the-loose scare stories. But a few months from now, when the Shell station on your corner is giving away free copies of "Bride of Chucky" with the purchase of a full tank of gas, you might want to think twice before politely declining the offer. While it'll never be mistaken for a great horror film, this audacious sequel is so brazen in its desire to appeal to all of your worst impulses that you can't help but award it at least a few big points for imagination and effort.
After three solo features as the leading heir to the Rod Serling tradition of homicidal playthings, Chucky is this time merely 50 percent of a Bonnie-and-Clyde duo of romantic malevolence. His better half is the bodacious Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), an old flame from the days before his psychotic soul was imprisoned in the plastic shell of a Mattel reject. Tiffany's plan is to restore her former beau to his corporeal state, so they can settle down to a life of blissful, shared violence. Shortly after their reunion, however, old tempers have begun to flare; soon, Tiffany too is dead, and likewise trapped in the jointed physiognomy of a real living doll. The volatile couple then takes to the road, in search of fresh human bodies to inhabit.
In other words, as amorous fantasies go, it's slightly more believable than "City of Angels." It's also a lot more fun. Even though too few of its many one-liners live up to the potential of the wildly satirical concept, the film maintains a level of surreality that can't help but amuse. We even get to watch as the honeymooning pair consummates its unholy union in a Niagara Falls hotel room. At the showing we attended, the sight of the pint-sized Dahmer slipping his mate the polyurethane tongue moved an audience member to sit bolt upright in revolted fascination and proclaim, "That's some FREAK shit!" You're not kidding.
"Bride's" sleazy charm would be even greater if Tilly enjoyed more screen time in her flesh-and-blood form. Instead, she's mostly relegated to supplying voice-over duties for a knife-wielding Muppet. When she's actually performing in three dimensions, she's a wonderfully insane Betty Boop of a murder junkie, squeaking out her lines while balancing on stack heels and displaying cleavage that seems to arrive a good three scenes before the rest of her. In this role, the inscrutably quirky Tilly has at last found her dream casting. She's undeniably the best in the business at whatever it is she does.
We'd hardly be spoiling any surprises to report that, in the end, Chucky survives to wreak further havoc on the taller and unsuspecting. It's nearly a relief; after all, there are plenty of Beanie Babies and Teletubbies out there in sore need of being taught a lesson.