The first time I saw a commercial for Child’s Play it was Halloween night 1988. Why the movie didn’t premiere before Halloween is anyone’s guess, but it was set to open more than a week later. The first movie was a modest success making over $44 million about four times its budget. It was helmed by Tom Holland (not that one who wasn’t born yet) who had a previous success with the original Fright Night.
But over the last 35 years, it’s been one of the most problematic yet surprising still successful franchise with seven movies, one reboot and a TV series. Unfortunately, Living with Chucky directed by Kyra Elise Gardner, daughter of Tony Gardner, who also worked the special effects on the movies, avoids most of these issues as she presents what can best be described as one of those documentary features you’d find on a special double DVD edition.
Don Mancini’s script was original titled Batteries Not Included but changed to Blood Buddy after he discovered the 1987 movie produced by Steven Spielberg. The fact we have Spielberg to thank (or blame) for the franchise’s longevity through the 1990s at least is something not discussed at all. After the success, MGM/UA Communications which distributed the movie was considering a buyout by Quintex which didn’t want any horror movies. So Spielberg who had a good working relationship with Universal Pictures convinced them into purchasing the film rights by speaking with producer David Kirschner, who he had worked with on the first An American Tail. Incidentally, Quintex folded in 1989 shortly after Universal acquired the rights.
Kirschner would also go on to work on Rick Moranis’ Gravedale High and the notorious failed sitcom pilot Poochinski in which Peter Boyle is killed and resurrected as a talking bulldog. Kirschner would also have a hand in producing the cult classic Hocus Pocus which would be co-written by Mick Garris, who also created the concept behind the 1987 Batteries Not Included. The entertainment industry is full of odd coincidences like this which would have made for some good talking points.
But instead Gardner seems to skip over a lot and give us a little information about each movie from interviewees including her own father, Mancini, Kirschner, Alex Vincent, who played Andy Barclay in the first two movies, Jennifer Tilly who played Tiffany and of course, Brad Dourif, and his daughter, Fiona, who was cast in the sequels Curse of Chucky (which I haven’t seen yet) and Cult of Chucky (which I have and wasn’t impressed with it overall.) Vincent now 42 also appeared in both of those latter movies as an adult Andy. Why this might have worked for a feature under an hour, it’s a little too much ado about the same old thing at one hour and 45 minutes with credits.
While this shows the comraderie and almost familial bond that forms when people work together for so many years on a franchise, some things feel like they’re being said over and over and said better in other documentaries There’s so much, “So-and-so did a very good job” that you feel like some of the dirt couldn’t pass the legal department or Gardner didn’t bother to ask. And while the movie mentions many of the loyal fans, we really don’t see much of them aside from footage at conventions.
The documentary does bring up the fact that it may be one of the first LGBTQIA horror franchises as Mancini is openly gay. There’s also the titular character in Seed of Chucky who starts out as Glen before turning into Glenda. Billy Boyd, who voiced Glen/Glenda is another interviewee who happily talks to Gardner. And while the documentary does show how those who work on horror (as well as their fans) are actually the nicest people, the delivery isn’t right.
What is one of the documentary’s highlights are the scenes of Brad and Fiona talking about their experiences filming. Brad has played a lot of creepy and evil people. But it’s hard to believe at one time, he made so many people fall in love with him as the shy but doomed Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for which he earned an Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. And you still see images of young Billy in Brad’s demeanor which makes him even more of an impressive actor to play such characters over the years. But interviews featuring Marlon Wayans, Abigail Breslin and Lin Shaye kinda have the feeling they belong in a generic documentary about horror movies.
Fans of the franchise might find parts of it interested but there’s a lot you can just skip over without missing much.
What do you think? Please comment.