Child's Play 2 (1990)
Where Child's Play successfully used tightly wound, slowly released tension to assist an otherwise outlandish premise, Child's Play 2 is content to trim some of its predecessor's cinematic fat and get right to the point (of the butcher knife, of course). I suppose that's because if you buy the idea of a killer doll once, you'll buy it again: little-to-no explanation required. As with other slasher sequels, Chucky's second outing doesn’t approach the depth of the first film, but unlike others of its ilk, this demented dollhouse offers numerous pleasures within its celluloid walls.
Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent), the young hero of Child’s Play, finds himself in foster care and his mother committed at the outset of Child’s Play 2. Meanwhile, the Good Guy doll is brought back into production by its greedy manufacturers to prove the events of the first film as hogwash. Their mission fails, however, as Chucky’s violent spree starts anew, with little Andy again the subject of the homicidal doll’s affections.
Andy’s foster family, for the most part, fails to impress. Garret Graham, as Andy’s foster father Phil (say that three times fast), comes across as a short-tempered tyrant. He’s seriously underwritten, as is Jenny Agutter as Andy’s foster mother Joanne, who spends most of the film attempting (and failing) to mask her British accent. Some character development comes by way of Christine Elise as Kyle, Andy’s foster sister, but like everyone else in the film, Elise overacts the role. Vincent’s performance is comparable to his efforts in the first film, but overall, the acting in Child’s Play 2 is strictly second rate, especially in light of the above average work on display in the original.
The film earns brownie points with its technical execution. Director John Lafia may not have the golden touch with his actors, but he sure handles Don Mancini’s entertaining script with finesse. Though not scary by any stretch of the imagination, this film is delightfully grotesque. Combined with great sets and technical wizardry that belies the film’s budget, the boo moments in Child’s Play 2 stir up a great deal of mischievous fun. Lafia handles the quick pace and enhanced comedy of Child’s Play 2 with a level of care and craftsmanship not often found in quickly produced horror sequels. But the film’s excitement level can’t mask its lack of depth and character development. While Child’s Play 2 is definitely a fun ride, it’s also somewhat of a Happy Meal in comparison to the original’s Quarter Pounder with cheese. This sequel marks the franchise’s turn towards the absurd and comedic, which, because of the series’ blatant admission of its ludicrousness, is easier to swallow than say... the slow decline of the Nightmare on Elm Street series.
The Child’s Play series has always been somewhat successful in using its comedic elements to its advantage, but I’d be kidding myself if I thought recommending Child’s Play 2 to an ardent fan of, oh, let’s say The Shining, was a good way to make a new friend.
If you’re in the mood for an empty if entertaining romp, Child’s Play 2 may just be your cup of tea. It’s wonderfully depraved and exciting, but there’s little to love beneath its shiny surface. However, the film’s undeniably fantastic and infamous final scene--set in a toy factory--may renew even the most hardened horror fan’s waning attention. The finale is like an awesome action figure you get to play with when you’ve finished the junk food portion of your Happy Meal.