If Child’s Play (1988) is a steak dinner and Child’s Play 2 (1990) is an Applebee’s hamburger, then Child’s Play 3 (1991) is like a Big Mac. The pictures look better than the actual product, but you basically know what to expect. 

Although it was released a mere 9 months after Child’s Play 2 (1990), Child’s Play 3 (1991) takes place in 1998, 8 years after the events of the second movie. Andy Barclay (Justin Whalin) is now a teenager and headed to the Kent military school. He is still separated from his mother who he describes as “unstable,” but he also keeps a picture of the two of them in happier times close by. Meanwhile, Play Pals Toys believe it has been long enough since the previous killings that were associated with Good Guy dolls and has decided to release more.

The first doll off the assembly line is our good friend Chucky (Brad Dourif) whose blood somehow made it into the melted plastic of a new doll. This is given to Sullivan (Peter Haskell), CEO of Play Pals Toys. Chucky kills the CEO and finds a document on his computer with information on Andy Barclay, including that he has been remanded to Kent military school. Chucky somehow mails himself there, but is intercepted by Tyler (Jeremy Sylvers), a young cadet who has befriended Andy and really wants a Good Guy doll and a best friend. 

Chucky reveals himself as Charles Lee Ray to Tyler and must transport his soul into Tyler’s body because Tyler is now the first person he has revealed his identity to. I guess the fact that Chucky is in a new doll body means he has hit the reset button. He no longer needs to be in Andy’s body, but he wants to kill Andy nonetheless. This puts Andy into a new role. He is no longer trying to keep Chucky from taking his body. His goal is to protect Tyler and convince him that Chucky is dangerous. This places Andy in the role that previously was filled by his mother and Kyle in the other movies. Andy also seems to have learned that he cannot tell everyone the Good Guys doll is possessed. He guards this secret closely and only confides it in Tyler. Sadly, we do not get to find out what has happened with and why or when Andy was separated from her.

This movie is not terrible, but it is not satisfying by any means. There are several times Chucky indirectly kills people instead of torturing and killing them. For instance, Chucky confronts a colonel who is frightened into a heart attack. 

Another case of an indirect death is a major disappointment for the audience. What could have been a great scene and climax was watered down either due to money, time, or political correctness. The students are to play an intense game of capture the flag. They have tents and camp out. The students are even armed with rifles that shoot paint. Chucky switches out the paint slugs for live ammo. Only one character gets shot, but it could have been a bloodbath. This would have been much more in keeping with the dark tone of original film, but I guess even in a pre-Columbine world, folks had trouble with a large group of teenagers shooting each other.

Instead of the final battle we want and deserve, we get one that is aesthetically badass, but is contrived. Tyler escapes to a nearby carnival that is in the middle of nowhere and near where the Kent cadets had been camping during capture the flag. The location of the carnival makes no sense and the camping scenes showed residual snow on the ground.  This would not be the time of year for a carnival. Tyler tries to get help from carnival security who just thinks he is a kid having an argument with friends. The guard tries to comfort Tyler by giving him a doll from the lost and found who just so happens to be Chucky. Andy and his love interest, Cadet De Silva (Perrey Reeves) follow Chucky and Tyler to a dark ride that would rival any theme park’s haunted house ride. Called the Devil’s Lair, the ride carts carnival goers through a cemetery packed full of the usual jump scares you would expect in a haunted house. There is a giant grim reaper that is complete with a huge scythe that is actually sharp and slices off part of Chucky’s face! The best part of this scene is when Chucky hauls a passed out Tyler up a mountain of skulls and starts his chant to try to switch bodies. This image looks like something that would have been painted on Charles Lee Ray’s wall in the first film! Andy struggles with Chucky on the skull mountain and Chucky falls into a giant fan that provides the wind and sounds for the ride.

It really feels like this movie was phoned in. The Devil’s Lair is the best part of the movie and one of the best parts of the franchise by this point so far simply because of how awesome it looks. By being chopped up in a giant fan, Chucky’s face and body will need to be sewn together in future films. This is the last time that we see Chucky fresh faced and in good shape. This will also be the last time in the franchise that “Child’s Play” is in the title of the film until 2019’s reboot. It will also be the last time we see Andy for a while. Because of these differences, many fans divide up the franchise into sets. The first three films belong in one set, Bride of Chucky (1998) and Seed of Chucky (2004) belong into another set, Curse of Chucky (2013) and Cult of Chucky (2017) go together, and Child’s Play (2019) belongs by itself for now. Stylistically and story wise, it makes sense.

Computers have been incorporated by this time to make Chucky’s lip-syncing appear more smoothly. The fact that we get to see a more mature Andy is another great aspect of the film. We see how he has changed and turned out to be a decent person despite everything he has been through. I miss Alex Vincent, but he was not an option as Andy had to be older in this film. He and Catherine Hicks do appear in photographs at least. Whalin makes a believable older version of Andy and holds his own.

But Tyler…yikes! Tyler looks way to older to be mesmerized by a Good Guys doll. He is either way big for his age or way immature and the movie never clarifies. His connection with Andy signifies Andy’s own lost childhood and Andy wants to protect him from Chucky because he knows the truth. But what kid is going to fall for a toy wanting to play “hide the soul?!” Tyler also believes that Chucky will be his best friend. Tyler is lonely and misses his father who is stationed far away, but he does not go through a traumatic event like Andy did in Child’s Play (1988). Andy’s father died and now his mother is mourning, distracted, and absent due to work.  Tyler’s just plain annoying. I do not fault the actor for that, but the casting and writing just do not match.  Tyler also nags Chucky about his language. I am sure that Tyler living in a military school hears plenty of bad language from his other cadets. If he nags them like he does Chucky, he is a walking target.

Because I am getting older I find myself asking, “Where are the adults” a lot more than I did when I was younger. At the military school, the only present adults are the colonel, someone over the mail, a sadistic and obsessive barber, and an unnamed officer that is present in the chow hall. There are no adults instructing the cadets or present during the capture the flag battles. Upper classmen rule over the younger cadets and abuse them. It does not make sense at all.  I understand the main focus are the kids and Chucky, but this does not make sense whatsoever. On a campus where there is an armory with live ammunition and apparently at least on live grenade, we need to see more of an adult presence!

Although this movie is one of the tamest and lamest of the franchise, it is marred with more controversy than the others, especially in Europe. It was erroneously linked to the murder of two year old James Bulger in England. Bulger was lured away from his mother while shopping by two ten year olds, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. Thompson and Venables brutally killed and tortured Bulger. Tabloids said the murder was inspired by Child’s Play 3 (1991) because it was one of the films Venables’ father rented in the months before the murder. Batteries and blue paint were also played a part in the torture of Bulger. Whether or not Chucky is being powered by batteries have been a large part of the first two films of the franchise.  Chucky also gets sprayed by blue pain in the capture the flag scene. Urban legend says that this movie was banned in Europe, but it was not. This rumored inspiration did lead to stricter rules on the videos children could watch in Europe, though.

The film itself is not great, but it does have some solid moments and redeeming qualities. It adds to the story of Chucky and Andy. We have to give Andy credit, he has survived three films while facing up against Chucky. Maybe that strength will help us forgive Mancini for creating Tyler.

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