Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

Seed of Chucky (DVD)

Posted by CinemaPsycho on June 28, 2005

Directed and written by Don Mancini/starring Jennifer Tilly, Redman, Hannah Spearritt, John Waters, and the voices of Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Billy Boyd/Universal Home Video

Killer dolls Chucky and Tiffany are resurrected by their gender-confused offspring and proceed to menace actress Jennifer Tilly.

There’s really only so much you can do with a killer doll. Don Mancini knows this all too well, as the screenwriter of all of the previous Chucky movies. Of course, this revered (by some) series began with the genuinely tense Child’s Play and continued with two lackluster direct sequels. Realizing that Chucky was no longer particularly scary and was quickly lapsing into self-parody, Mancini wisely went for pure horror-comedy with Bride of Chucky, which turned out to be surprisingly entertaining.

Now Mancini has taken the logical next step with Seed of Chucky, also his directorial debut. This fifth Chucky movie attempts to be the ne plus ultra of Chucky cinema, a self-reflexive smorgasbord that combines the usual mayhem and bloodshed with wicked showbiz satire that sends up the Chucky films themselves and the people who make them. Unfortunately, it’s only intermittently successful at this, resulting in a film that’s merely a sporadically fun romp, if a slightly baffling one at times.

Seed finds Chucky and bride Tiffany serving as props for a movie based on their “real” exploits, which stars Oscar-nominated actress Jennifer Tilly (who of course also provides the voice of Tiffany). Their offspring Glen (voiced by Lord of the Rings co-star Boyd), has been serving as the dummy in a British ventriloquist act called “Psychs & Shitface” (guess which one Glen is) – how exactly he got to England isn’t really explained, and I’m probably the only one who would care. When Glen sees a “behind the scenes” item on the making of the movie-within-a-movie, he realizes that Chucky and Tiffany are his parents and heads off to Hollywood to find them.

Once Glen manages to unwittingly resurrect dear old Mom and Dad, he’s a bit upset to find that they’re actually serial killers in doll form (guess he didn’t pay close enough attention to that news item), as he’s a sweet-natured pacifist. He’s also a bit confused about his gender identity, given that he was born without genitals, resulting in an alter ego named Glenda (wink wink). It’s all a bit needlessly convoluted, which is one of the things that keep the movie from being as much fun as it should be.

Tiffany turns out to be a big Jennifer Tilly fan (who isn’t?), and decides that the zaftig, bubbly-voiced actress would be a perfect host for her soul. Tilly is a little busy with her career and personal life – attempting to seduce rapper Redman to land a part as the Virgin Mary in his biblical epic and messing around with her lovestruck chauffeur – to notice that there are killer dolls running around her house. There are more subplots involving a nasty paparazzi (played to the hilt by Waters) and Tilly’s young assistant (Spearritt), but they don’t go anywhere particularly interesting. They’re secondary characters in a Chucky movie – you can guess what happens to them.

As you can probably tell from the above three paragraphs, part of the problem with Seed is its complete lack of focus. For such a short movie (88 minutes), Mancini tries to pack in a lot of stuff, and the movie careens wildly from subplot to subplot with what seems to be the barest of narrative thread connecting everything. Not that a Chucky movie needs to be a model of coherent storytelling, but it seems like they’re throwing a lot of stuff at the wall here and not much of it sticks.

It would’ve helped if the Hollywood satire were a bit sharper. Some of this material is just head-scratchingly bizarre – since when do rappers get to direct movies, and who would let one make a biblical epic? That’s just odd. Your average film geek could write funnier and more accurate parody than that. The movie is full of fairly obvious visual references to movies like Psycho, Halloween and The Shining – nothing particularly inspired there.

The funniest bits are the ones in which Tilly gamely sends up her image, her career and her status as a B-level celebrity. The highlights are all hit on here, including her Oscar nomination and the cult sensation Bound (which provides the best line in the movie), as well as her notorious cleavage (prominently displayed throughout) and of course that breathy gun-moll-on-helium voice. The idea that she’s so willing to portray herself as a narcissistic, vain, oversexed diva paradoxically reminds us how funny, likable and genuinely sexy Tilly can be. Somebody give her a worthy vehicle already!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s Glen, who somehow manages to be even less interesting a character than his plastic parents. Of course Chuck and Tiff are homicidal maniacs in doll form – they’re little ids running around loose, and that’s their main appeal. Mancini tries to invert the joke by making Glen a passive, effeminate, messed-up little freak, but the sad result is that he’s incredibly annoying and seriously unappealing. Every moment he’s on screen is like the proverbial fingernails on a chalkboard, and his gender-confusion issues don’t exactly make for gripping drama. You can’t help but feel like the whole character was horribly misconceived from the start, and that Glen would’ve been a lot funnier as, say, an equally homicidal “chip off the old block” who kept screwing up his kills due to youthful inexperience and needed Chucky to give him tips on following through. Sometimes the most obvious path is the best.

In fact, what’s curious about the whole affair is how little comic mileage Mancini gets out of Chucky himself and the whole family dynamic, which is supposed to be the whole point of this thing. Chucky’s one outrageous scene here comes when he masturbates in front of a window, which I’m not sure anybody really needed to see (I won’t even try to speculate on how a plastic doll can possibly generate sperm). Tiffany’s attempt to quit murder “cold turkey” doesn’t go anywhere particularly interesting either. They’re only really interesting here when they’re killing people, which admittedly is the only reason that their fans watch these movies anyway.

It’s not that there isn’t fun to be had with Seed of Chucky; it’s just that the movie as a whole is far too scattershot to be truly effective as a comedy. Of course the die-hard Chucky fans are going to see this anyway, but I can’t imagine that this is the movie they really wanted. If the series continues (and we all know it probably will, at some point), maybe it’s time for Chucky to get back to basics. Horror comedies are a bit passé at this point anyway – these days, it’s all about the serious, hardcore stuff. Maybe the next one should be called Divorce of Chucky. Now that would be scary.

**1/2 6/28/05

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