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'Bride Of Chucky' Embodies The Ultimate, Plastic Surrender To The Dictates Of Pop-Culture.

By Stacey Richter

OCTOBER 26, 1998:  IF THERE WAS any doubt, it's now official: Pop culture has become a fully self-sustaining, self-consuming entity, like a snake devouring its tail. Movies are now permitted to base all of their subject matter, references and humor on other movies and television. In a way it's a relief. What was this art imitating life/life imitating art crap about anyway? Why not surrender to the soothing, circular hypnosis of pop culture?

The epitome of such surrender is Bride of Chucky, the fourth in the Child's Play series of horror flicks. I missed the first three Child's Play movies (without regret, despite the adage that what you regret in life are the things you didn't do); but I have managed to gather that they concerned themselves with a demonic and evidently unstoppable killer doll known as Chucky. Chucky was infused with the soul of a "multiple murderer" via voodoo ritual and so lives to kill, and kill again. After three rounds, the Chucky cycle had become a bit tired, so this time he's been resurrected as a parody of his former self. This Chucky is a fun guy, and his new movie is a bizarre, silly cross between a Saturday Night Live sketch and a real horror movie.

The results are sort of interesting. Unfortunately, I can't endorse Bride of Chucky as a fine piece of entertainment; but it's a good movie to sneak into after paying to see another one at the plex. Twenty minutes of this would be plenty. Particularly if you can manage to catch the 20 minutes containing the sex scene between Chucky and his bride (a real doll), which gets into full swing after Chucky reveals to his honey that he's "anatomically correct."

Chucky's girlfriend is a bridal Tiffany doll who inherits her inky soul from a human, goth sexpot named Meg (Jennifer Tilly). Meg was the girlfriend of Ray, the real-life killer who apparently came to inhabit Chucky's wee plastic frame in horror flicks of old. I know it's hard to pay attention to this, but this is a sequel and continuity is important, so listen up: Chucky doesn't like Meg, so he kills her with, of course, a television (it's playing Bride of Frankenstein) which he tosses in her bath water.

It's too bad, because Tilly's Meg is easily the best part of Bride. Watching her taunt, coo and flirt with a big plastic toy is very...engaging. Well, at least with her dead, there's one more evil doll to do what killin' needs doing. So then the plastic paramours go on a cross-country killing spree, like "Bonnie and Clyde, or Mickey and Mallory," we are told. I am not making this up. A screenwriter named Don Mancini made it up, and I'm fairly certain that's not his real name. Mancini wrote the scripts for all the Child's Play movies, a dubious achievement he at least has the grace to make fun of. Most everything in Bride of Chucky is tongue-in-cheek; the violence, especially, is rendered ridiculous. Tiff and Chucky debate the stylishness of various murder implements, finally deciding to kill a weird old police chief (John Ritter) with a spray of nails, which unfortunately doesn't quite do the trick.

The police chief, you see, is chasing down his fetching niece Jade (Katherine Heigl), a teen bombshell of whom he is unnaturally protective. But Jade loves Jesse (Nick Stabile), and the two decide to run away together to avoid that meddling chief. They take the dolls with them because--well who cares why. They take the dolls, and before they know it, everyone in their path ends up dead. Each teen begins to suspect the other of being psychotic, which is sort of cute, but I think Mancini made a mistake by making Bride of Chucky a teen movie. He's obviously trying to cash in on the success of the Scream series, with the self-conscious references and the bland teen sex-tension, but it seems to me that the true scary nature of killer dolls comes from their association with children.

Killer dolls should embody the rage of sweet things, of good little girls or mousy secretaries who always agree to work late. Without children, animated dolls lose their primal terror. Chucky isn't very scary. Some of the murders are creative and graphic, but he's not a scary doll. He's actually sort of cute, in an evil way. The only really terrifying trait Chucky has left is that inevitably, no matter how thoroughly he's killed, there's a good chance he'll come back to make us endure sequel number five.

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