a Bootsie Kidd review
It seems too few flicks are able to juggle sheer playfulness, gore, heart, and raunch to give a film one helluva personality. But with veteran deviants like Jennifer Tilly (Tiffany) and Brad Douriff (Charles ‘Chucky’ Lee Ray [I-IV]) directed by Ronny Yu (Freddy vs Jason), and the Child’s Play franchise’s head wordsman Don Mancini how could ‘Bride’ not have a style unlike any other. Though Chucky still has as much of that acerbic charm as ever, ‘Bride’ differs from Child’s Play’s usual thrills that made you want to trade in your Cabbage Patch for a Skip-It. Both hardcore fans and newcomers to the series may be skeptical of this installment’s ability to deliver, and while it’s true that ‘Bride’ brought Child’s Play into a new scope viewers would do well to remember that like our hero, himself, packaging rarely indicates punch.
Yu opens with harkening back to beloved James Whales’ atmospheric originals; a playfully spooky dark and stormy night with an expendable-looking cop nervously slinking through an evidence room. We’re given just enough lightning flash to make out tagged items from other investigations. Highlighted are cubbies containing a candid homage to horror legends, Michael, Jason, & Freddie (Jason face & Freddy fingers boxed in together… premonition much?). All of which seems a not-so-subtle declaration of Chucky’s right to be counted amongst the greats.
Our lackey nabs a bulky black plastic bag and makes his way to the drop-off point, placing a call during which we hear one of Hollywood’s most familiar raspy coos. Shortly after, owner of said coo makes our film’s first kill and it’s a gusher. Tiffany slits Officer Crooked’s throat letting us know W.) just where a fair bribe & the moral high-ground can shove it and X.) she isn’t exactly the squeamish type. Fun side note: he’d just lit a cig possibly making this the best anti-smoking ad ever. Quothe the Tilly, eat your heart out, Truth.
And just who is this slaughtering pigs right out the gate?** Enter the ultimate in 90’s sex appeal! Blonde, boobs, and black leather is how Tiffany rolls, and, baby, it’s just fine by me. She unwraps the loot and we get our first glimpse of our Chucky’s mug, well, 4/5 of a mug and looking like he’s seen better days. Still, toy in hand Tiff and swaggers off to hostess one killer crafting montage complete with creepy doll appendages & eyeballs, brutally long hooks, thick black wormy string, and staple gun. Compounded with Rob Zombie’s rough & dirty tunes, Tiff is like the warped, older sister May’s (2002) parents forbid her to be like.
Next up: the ingénues and oppressive fatherly types. Gordon Michael Woolvett, as David, reminds us we’re in the 90s with his strategically placed frosted tips and that being gay in this decade’s cinema meant you knew EVERYTING about orchids and were attending Princeton to study theatre arts on your figure skating scholarship. A young-and-feeling-fresh Katherine Heigl, as sweetheart Jade, flexes her prissy-pants, pouty-face shmacting muscles and veteran John Ritter as Chief Warren Kincaid grunts, barks, and squints, firmly establishing himself as the meddling square that must later die in some satisfyingly creative way.
David is supposed to be Jade’s date for… prom? Yeah, that unnecessary plot-point thankfully fell to the wayside, but Oh, these wile kids! We soon find Jade’s all googly-eyed for Tiger Beat hunk Jesse (Nick Stabile) who’s hiding in the backseat & reveals himself just long enough to shove his tongue down her throat. This moment is the climax of their sexual/emotional chemistry throughout the movie. However, these rascals are soon pulled over by Lt. “Needle Nose” Preston who, by virtue of his unrelenting grin, remains the absolute creepiest character of this film.
Unless you count Damien, (then Robert Arquette, now Alexis Arquette) one of Tiff’s puppies who she couldn’t take less seriously. In her defense, it’s no easy task with a dude who looks like Marilyn Manson, acts like Brian Hugh Warner, and sounds like Keanu Reeves. This pseudo-badass is more Creed than Cradle of Filth despite his best efforts to convince Tiffany that he’s the deranged sociopath of her dreams. He weirdly crawls all over her bed mispronouncing “la petite morte”, the French idiom for an orgasm, but still manages a surprising sultry line, “Come on, Tiffany, let’s die a little”. But minimal seductive powers are hardly enough to redeem this guy. “HEYTIFFANY!” is the perfect introduction for Damien. “Come on, I’ll catch my death out here!” to which she disinterestedly replies “Promises, promises”. The contrast of her casual confidence against his pasty fragility makes this one of the best delivered lines of the flick & pretty much this sums up every relationship she’s waded through for 10 years since Chucky’s bizarre toy store demise.
Oh, right! So just prior to Damien whimpering up Tiff’s tree, she successfully summons Chucky’s being back into his trashed little body. Yu is wise in letting Chucky’s first move be to play on his strong suit, pitter-pattering around and appearing at the perfect moment to monumentally fuck with his prey’s head. Being the perfect pair, Tiff also likes to play with her food. She seductively cuffs Lamien to the bed, and though we know his demise is just around the river bend he sports a grin that looks like the unholy hybrid of Gary Busey & Julia Roberts’ mouths. Upon revealing himself, Chucky tears out Dame’s crucifix labret weirdly rendering a veritable bloodbath, and covers his face with a pillow casually plopping down on it to sit and catch up with Tiff. It has been 10 years, after all.
Now, here comes a practical reason for my love of this movie. Don Mancini, writer of the entire Child’s Play franchise, does a decent of job of getting personalities, chemistry, and history across in a pinch, managing to give you, dear viewer, the info you need while keeping you highly entertained and eager for more. One of film’s weaknesses, however, is in giving their lackluster teen-vs-world subplot waaaaaay more attention than it merits and making moves like cutting away from Chuck & Tiff’s reunion to make time for dry toast characters. The kids have to take a breathalyzer in the pouring rain, we get that Kincaid’s a weight-throwing douche bag constantly dogging on poor folk, Jade spouts off a couple awkwardly melodramatic lines, and we get the sense that they’re going to “get the hell outta dodge and nevah look back.” Okay. Are we done here?
Back to Tiff & Chuck. Fellas, if your woman ever goes to the trouble of sewing up your tattered ragdoll of a body, holds séances in her (enviably cool Goth-chic) doublewide to call your spirit back from some nebulous limbo, AND cooks you Swedish meatballs… try not to laugh in her face and imply she’s “fuckin’ nuts” when she talks marriage and babies. It’ll just piss her off. Hell hath no fury as we find when Tiff Masterlocks Chucky in what she’d hoped would be their child’s play pin leaving the casual viewer to wonder, “Was the lock-and-key baby digs really for their potential offspring?!”, already-parents to think, “Hey, now, there’s an idea…”, and Child’s Play aficionados noting, “Yeah, she’s going to need that, later…”
How Chucky can launch the nanny out the window but he can’t break out of some dinky wooden box is beyond me. But ironic ingenuity prevails when Chucky uses Tiff’s assumed engagement ring to file down the bars and gain freedom (see what they did there?). In what is a visually spectacular scene, Chucky electrocutes Tiff by way of knocking the boob tube into her bubble bath while she’s watching Lanchester own it in Bride of Frankenstein (see? they did there it there, too). He does the dirty deed with her dead body… transferring her being into the obnoxiously wholesome bride doll she bought to torture him. Why? Y) He’s a vindictive asshole, Z) to get her on board with the plan. What’s the plan? To retrieve an amulet buried with Chucky’s rotting corpse in Jersey and trick gullible dope Jesse and increasingly whiney Jade to hand over their bodies for inhabitation. So now we have to road trip with these kids… Are we there, yet?
Small price to pay, however, for the treat of seeing Tiff school Chucky on how to murder and murder good. “Who the fuck is Martha Stewart”, Chucky’s inquires after Tiff’s inspiration for improvised “homicidal genius”. She devises a booby trap (teeheegetit?causeshehasbigtits) that involves literally nailing Kincaid. Tiffany’s critique of the go-to knife technique as 80s kitsch not only shows that Chucky’s in a new age, but that horror itself is always morphing into new form. While horror filmmaker and fans seem fairly apt at respecting their roots, horror is a vehicle for reflecting the times and the times do change. Just as monsters gave way to slashers, so slashers have taken somewhat of a back seat to the theme of ruthless ingenuity manifested through franchises such as Saw and given premonition by Tiff’s airbag nail launcher. But such a creative genre isn’t given to choppy black and whites. Chucky proves that that he’s still got it by later finishing off Kincaid with your tried-and-true maniacal multiple stabbing noting that “a true classic never goes out of style”, a move likely to leave true fans grinning and glowing with pride.
But still Chucky shows he can keep up with the time’s sense of inventive mayhem, with a make-shift car bomb making Needle Nose and his disturbing smile no more. Ruthless Deviants: 3, Crooked Cops: 0. Okay, look, Tiff and Chucky have some major bloodlust issues, but they’re not aimlessly drawn to killing. It’s an enjoyable means to an end. What’s that? How can you avoid certain death the next time you’re appearing in this movie? It’s simple, really…
– No looking in plastic bags – stay uncurious
– No tampering with plots & rides
– No happily allowing a self-professed murderer to cuff you up
– No stumbling into highway traffic
– No being an obnoxiously unnecessary character
– Try your best not work in law enforcement or own a camper
Meanwhile, Jesse & Jade cope with their plans getting mucked up and being prime suspects for the past 4 murders by endlessly blaming each other. So let’s see… now that we know what an irredeemably crappy couple those kids make and now they’re at the top of the FBI’s shit list what scene should we shoot for next? Oo! How bout a painfully awkward wedding? At least it gives Tiff & Chuck the chance to have an actual heart-to-heart and us the chance to get in on some actual character chemistry.
Post-nuptials, Jesse & Jade are as supremely miserable as ever in their lavishly hokey honeymoon suite and are soon infiltrated by a couple who make you wonder which you loathe more: their painfully unfunny mayhem or that they resorted to goofy undies to try and trick you into finding them amusing (HAHAHAgetit?causethey’resilly). They slight Chucky, steal Jesse’s dough, and freak out the kids with schmaltzy advances. Feeling threatened by this woman’s ability to ruin a scene more effectively than she ever could, Jade kicks them out.
Tiff seeks revenge against the “thieving slut” shattering their ceiling mirror, the shards of which apparently fall at a velocity that impales the raunchy couple and their waterbed splashing tidal waves of bloody water all over the joint. It’s all over for Chucky, he’s smitten. He gets down on his knees, bites the ring off the newlydead’s severed finger, proposes in front of a roaring fire, and realizing “all the plumbing works” and “he’s feeling like Pinocchio over here” the saxophone & heavy panting begins.
Back on the road, a clusterfuck occurs in which the David’s obliterated by a semi, Chucky & Tiff reveal their alivedness (my review, my vocabulary) and their plans taking Jesse & Jade hostage at gunpoint, and kill a couple poor schmoes for their camper. Soon after, the planets align and Jessie has the intelligent idea to pit Chucky & Tiff against each other. Insults are thrown (“Take it from me, honey, plastic is no substitute for a nice hunk of wood!”) and chaos ensues! Winnebago rolls & explodes, Tiff gets charbroiled, Chucky kidnaps Jade, Jesse kidnaps Tiff, amulet is retrieved, chicks are swapped, in a last second stroke of conscience Tiff dukes it out with Chucky, and a detective arrives just in time to see a possessed doll and clear Jesse & Jade’s names just before she blows him away (apparently high profile investigations are easily put to rest with one dude’s unfounded speculations). WHEW! Good thing they managed to magically roll our motor home a block away from the cemetery or this could’ve been complicated.
Oh, and Tiff gives birth to an evil mutant abomination that eats the detective’s face off. Completely ruining Jesse & Jade’s alibi this movie ends on what I would consider a bonafide high note!
In the end, ‘Bride’ is one of those raunchy rides providing a healthy dose of laughs, sex, and horror. Although equipped with some righteously bloody moments, its aim is different than its two predecessors; it wants you to get to know your anti-heroes. A strong part of Chucky’s appeal is that he thinks, talks, and acts like a person… a supremely disturbed person but a person, nonetheless. He swears, cracks wickedly dirty puns, digs meatballs, gets horny, calls his gf ‘babe’ but has little patience for shmoopy romance, etc. He’s a colorful dude. Who wouldn’t want a little peek into his personal life?
And, my God! Tiffany, alone, offers more than enough guts & heart to get you hooked. Even as her dolls self montages into her usual platinum bombshell- painting herself in magenta & black, donning a classically tough black pleather jacket, and lighting her cig with a zippo swiped from her 2nd to latest victim’s corpse- her wedding dress remains pristine beneath the flash. Underneath a playfully sadistic exterior Tiffany is tender-hearted to the core, wanting only to love and be loved. Course, Tiff is a total Harvey Dent, so the flip side of that warped coin is in remembering that no matter how canned her dreams of marital bliss & baby-making may seem she is far from your brainwashed Stepford.
While prone to “female hysterics”, Tiff manages to put on her big girl panties, hatch the vast majority of their plans, and practically creams at the thought of getting her hands bloody. She is bad, savvy, & devilishly resourceful. Tiff seems like Mancini’s response to the new millennium woman’s identity crisis; wanting genuine intimate connection without having to sacrifice our hard-earned sense-of-self to acquire it. She’ll go above and beyond to prove her love (i.e. 10 years bribing/killing cops to find her bf’s possessed plastic corpse, slave over that hot stove perfecting her Swedish meatballs, etc) but WOE to the man-doll who takes it for granted… Sound familiar? By now, it’s a cinematic classic- the woman wielding her rolling pin in juggernaut resentment when she isn’t given her due. Domesticity’s alarming 180 from assured subservience to a yammering nag was film’s way of saying,”Wow, woman, your standards for respect are pretty obnoxious”. Although Tiffany has her cliched lecture & dish throwing down pat, it’s easy to sympathize. Maybe Barbie can eat her heart out, but Chucky’s a far fucking cry from Ken and a hijacked camper is the dreamiest house they’ll ever have.
The entire Child’s Play franchise seems to reflect a certain fear of role irregularities or reversals. What was once a thing of comfort becomes the epitome of terror. That the seemingly sweet, innocent youth could foster something dark and sinister is a trend possibly correlating with two monumentally impactful and sometimes oppositional American movements, women’s and children’s rights. It’s no well-kept secret that hardcore classics such as Rosemary’s Baby & The Omen helped us deal with the controversies of Roe vs Wade, rewiring our cultural understading to actually consider the needs and wants of women (some would argue even to the detriment of a child’s right to life). But the 80s and 90s brought on a new a strange blend of children’s rights and a crackdown on child criminal offenses. Children were being seen less as saintly cherubs and more as actual people, capable of both kind and vicious deeds.
In Child’s Play, Andy & Chucky satisfy these extreme opposites, manifesting both the hopes and fears of parent and society. That little Andy is gradually introduced to the evils of the world through Chucky on such an extremely intimate level threatens these hopes of childlike purity. It addresses the increasing fear many had in those conservative times of children being exposed to too much of the world too quickly, how subversively evil can take form (the Good Guy with a Bad Boy streak), and how deeply that evil might take root in children (a plot to literally infiltrate Andy’s mind and body implying undertones of lewd & lascivious intent, yet ANOTHER sickening issue receiving big-time attention in the 80s and being addressed through other villains such as Freddy).
Christ, was there ANY large-scale issue Child’s Play didn’t cover?! Well, we could always talk about its representation of single-parent homes, economic crisis, systemic discrimination against women in the workforce, shamelessly kid-focused consumerism, crooked cops (though we kind of covered that one), questioning the legitimacy of diagnosing psychosis… dude, we could go on for a while, right? But these were and are all very real, very tense issues naturally needing one helluvan outlet.
And, baby, Chucky gave it to ’em.
**Bootsie lovingly respects & supports those in Uniform, even if the characters I love don’t.
Many thanks to Chuckyholics for providing killer images!