Justin Whalin, Travis Fine
The more fiendish dolls possessed by spirits of crazed killers change, the more they remain the same. Old Chucky has been demolished a couple of times already, but he still looks the same: like a Cabbage Patch Kid whose plastic surgery didn't quite work out. Personalitywise, he is still the sort of fast-and-loose doll Barbie's parents have always dreaded she would end up with.
Since Brad Dourif is still providing Chucky's voice by doing a modified Jack Nicholson imitation, he sounds the same too.
This film does offer a little fresh meat—along with the standard run of horror carnage wrought by Chucky in his quest to secure a human body to park his mean spirit in. The boy whose traumatizing toy Chucky became in the 1988 original has now grown up and turned into a 16-year-old, played by Whalin. He has been sent to a military academy after flunking out of a series of foster homes.
The military-academy subplot is a welcome distraction from Chucky's routine bloodletting. It comes complete with hopeless misfits, bullying cadet officers (Travis Fine is impressively tyrannical) and even a love interest for Whalin in the form of a female fellow cadet, Perrey Reeves.
Otherwise, first-time director Jack Bender and writer Don Mancini don't add much to the by now not-so-novel novelty of the effects that turn Chucky from a harmless hunk of plastic into a malicious (and stupidly foulmouthed) little demon.
If he isn't as scary as he used to be, that's the monster biz for you. It's a what-have-you-done-to-us-lately world out there, Chuckster. (R)
Vincent D'Onofrio, Mathilda May
Although this peculiar movie is set in Argentina in 1924, it has a most definitely American '90s attitude. D'Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket) is a low-level hoodlum who has a Valentino complex. He dresses like a gaucho, disdains sex ("All sex is the same; it leaves you more sad.") and is so obsessed with dancing that even when he's walking down the street, he spontaneously breaks into little gliding steps. In other words, his philosophy clearly is: It takes one to tango.
Things get complicated when he meets May (Lifeforce), who is fleeing husband Fernando Rey. She isn't that thrilled to end up as a prisoner in a tan-go-themed brothel run by D'Onofrio's Jewish buddy, Esai Morales. (Great emphasis is placed on Morales's Jewishness, for no clear reason.) On the other hand, she's intrigued because D'Onofrio is interested in her body, but only to drag it around the dance floor.
Written and directed by Leonard (Kiss of the Spider Woman) Schrader, inspired by author Manuel Puig, the film is so full of ominous characters and moody scenes that it would seem fatally pretentious if it weren't so loopy. At one point D'Onofrio blindfolds May so they can tango the night away in the blood pit of a slaughterhouse—now this is dirty dancing—to the strains of a tango band, also blindfolded. There are also slashings and stabbings, a head pushed into boiling soup, shootings and so much violence you might think he is speaking literally when a newly emotional D'Onofrio tells May, "You cut out my heart and left me for dead."
Intriguing but excessive, stylized but not always coherent, this is something like Party Machine with Nia Peeples, only with more knives and audit) and less of a beat. (R)
Robbie Coltrane, Alex Rocco
That title, for what is essentially a comedy, is so foolishly provocative that the creators of this film have only themselves to blame if the protests it has generated—leading to refusals to run ads for the movie in some cases—hurt their business.
The Godfather Part III, for instance, had a subplot about similar Vatican corruption, but, without the we-dare-you-Catholics-not-to-complain title, it escaped criticism—on that count, anyway.
While this film's plot is about a pope, the movie is hardly anti-Papacy or anti-Catholic; nobody in the story threatens a pope physically in any way. Director Peter Richardson is himself a Catholic, and the satirical element of the movie is aimed at what he sees as corruption in the Vatican, not at the Vatican's existence.
Coltrane (Nuns on the Run) plays a simple priest who, through a bookkeeping error, is made pope. First he goes through the predictable jokes about how overwhelmed he is by his surroundings—he is so hungry after going through a series of ceremonial functions that he gobbles down a box of communion wafers. Then he stumbles onto an embezzlement scheme run by Rocco, a golf-obsessed cardinal, and Herbert Lom, an Italian arms dealer. It's all a holy variation on King Ralph.
The cast is a mixed bunch. As an old girlfriend from Coltrane's prevow days, Beverly D'Angelo is characteristically quirky. (If they're worth nothing else, and they aren't, those National Lampoon vacation movies have at least liberated D'Angelo to make oddball films like this one.) Paul Bartel overacts egregiously as a spineless Vatican factotum, Balthazar Getty shows up as a British rock star, and Richardson himself plays a prelate-administrator who helps Coltrane. Coltrane is a skilled comedian, but he has a hard time adjusting to the rapid transitions from slapstick, where he's falling all over himself in his new papal robes, to serious melodrama involving the death of someone close to him.
Richardson's directorial approach (he also cowrote the script with Peter Richens) is so broad and the pace so herky-jerky that the film seems silly more often than amusing or pointed or even offensive.
As penance. Richardson should say a few Hail Marys and rent Life of Brian so he can see how to make a witty, religion-oriented satire that's worthy of the righteous indignation it inspires. (R)
>HOME ALONE: Baby Guerrilla
CUTE IDEA: A LITTLE boy deserted by his parents defends his home against bungling burglars. Macaulay Culkin has a lapsed-cherub charm as the boy; burglars Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern bungle playfully. But director Chris Columbus and writer John Hughes never got past the basic concept. Culkin's family is too nasty to him before they leave; the tactics Culkin uses on the crooks are repetitive and sadistic too. It adds up to a superficial-wounds variation on Death Wish. (Fox)
This warning will be unnecessary in most cases, futile in others. But keep in mind that, semicute doll or not, Child's Play 3 is not a movie for small children, nor are the videotapes of the series' first two films suitable. Other current movies whose R ratings are to be taken seriously: Terminator 2, Hurley Davidson and the Marlboro Man and Body Parts. And keep in mind that, despite its PG-13, Robin Hood is full of graphic violence.