Seed of Chucky

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The opening credits play over a computer-animated sequence in which many sperm cells swim through dark tunnels in search of an egg. Immediately after this, an ugly living doll kills a family, whereupon he wets his pants. No, it’s not the new Merchant-Ivory film! It’s “Seed of Chucky,” and they weren’t kidding about that “seed” thing.

The fifth film in the series that began with “Child’s Play,” about a doll inhabited by the soul of a serial killer, continues the trend begun somewhere along the line of focusing more on laughs than on scares. (At this point I have seen only the first and fifth films, so I am unable to pinpoint exactly when the balance between yuks and yucks shifted.) “Seed of Chucky” has more than a few laughs, usually campy and/or grotesque in subject matter — John Waters plays a small role — and not a single legitimate scare. Some victims are dispatched in creative, disgusting fashion, though, which is always a plus for fans of the genre.

It is some years since the last film, in which Chucky (voice of Brad Dourif) acquired a wife (voice of Jennifer Tilly). They have gone into some sort of hibernation, their inanimate forms now being animated electronically by a Hollywood studio to make, ironically, a film about a murderous living doll. When their long-lost son shows up, a gender-confused thing named either Glen or Glenda (voice of Billy Boyd), he reads an inscription on a talisman that awakens Chucky and Tiffany, who immediately yank the cables out of their backs and show they don’t need any special effects geeks to help them move around and kill people, THANK you very much.

Glen/Glenda, a highly amusing Tiny Tim-style English urchin, is appalled at his parents’ behavior and soon convinces Tiffany to repress her killer instincts. Chucky vows to go straight, too, but he doesn’t try very hard, and he wishes his son (or whatever) would join the family tradition.

Meanwhile, Chucky and Tiffany continue their ongoing quest to transfer their souls back into human bodies. The vessels they’ve chosen are the rapper-turned-director Redman and … Jennifer Tilly, both playing themselves with remarkable good-sportedness. (Not surprisingly, Tiffany thinks Jennifer Tilly has a beautiful voice.) There’s also an attempt to impregnate Jennifer Tilly with Chucky’s seed, but the less said about that, the better.

It is hard to sustain a feature film when your main characters are puppets. The Muppets did it by being endearing; “Team America: World Police” did it by being hilarious. “Seed of Chucky” doesn’t even try for “endearing,” obviously, and “hilarious” isn’t quite the word I’d use to describe the film. It’s funny, certainly, at times, and there are even some hints of artful direction from Don Mancini (who has written every installment, including this one, but has never directed until now). You have to admire a director who will include overt references to both Hitchcock and Ed Wood in the same movie.

But it is, after all, a movie about dolls that kill people, and is thus inherently silly. The more the film embraces its true nature, the better it is. When it goes for the gore and the scares, it’s as if it knows it won’t get away with it. The film is about as good as could be expected, considering it’s the fifth installment and its premise is absurd.

C (1 hr., 26 min.; R, some harsh profanity, lots of violence and gore, some nudity, some animatronic sexuality.)

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