Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 24, 2019)
Although 1988’s Child’s Play didn’t do a ton of business, it made more than enough profit to spawn a sequel. 1990’s Child’s Play 2 also failed to dominate the box office, but like its predecessor, it turned a nice profit, largely due to its low budget.
Inevitably, this led to 1991’s Child’s Play 3. Whereas Play 2 took place a chronologically-accurate two years after the first film, Play 3 takes us eight years into the future.
A doll possessed by the spirit of a serial killer, Chucky (Brad Dourif) committed many murders in the first two films, and this understandably led to news that damaged Play Pals, the company that built the “Good Guys” line. Now nearly a decade after the second round of slayings, the Play Pals suits decide that the controversy has subsided enough to allow them to revive the “Good Guys” franchise.
Because the Play Pals folks reuse old materials, Chucky gets the opportunity to return to life. He takes over one of the new Good Guys dolls and remains intent on revenge.
Now-teenaged Andy Barclay (Justin Whalin) attends a military academy. Chucky pursues Andy in hopes he can finally transfer his soul into the boy’s body and escape his plastic shell.
As Chucky hunts for Andy, though, he encounters Tyler (Jeremy Sylvers), a younger stunt at the academy. Rather than bother with his old nemesis, Chucky decides he’ll try to co-opt Tyler’s body, and only Andy can halt this nefarious action.
Like I mentioned at the start, neither of the first two movies made a ton of money, but they earned more than enough compared to their costs. I feel less sure that Play 3 turned a profit, though.
I couldn’t find a budget for the movie, but it made a mere $14 million US, barely half of what Play 2 grossed. Maybe the film cost little enough that it still earned money, but it’s questionable.
What can’t be argued is the likelihood that Play 3’s lackluster receipts put the franchise into limbo for seven years, and I think that offers a good indication that Play 3 underperformed. We got three Play movies across four years, and if Play 3 found an audience, I suspect a fourth effort would’ve hit no later than 1993.
Instead, we didn’t hear from the psychopathic doll again until 1998’s Bride of Chucky, and that one took the series down a very different path. Whereas the first three went for a fairly standard slasher vibe, Bride opted for a campier mix of comedy and violence.
Play 3 occasionally straddles that line, though it stays closer to the more serious tone of its two predecessors. While a bit more oriented toward laughs, it doesn’t approach the wilder take we’d eventually see.
The film also barely attempts a new plot. I felt Play 2 essentially remade the original film, and Play 3 comes perilously close to that status as well.
On the surface, Play 3 looks like a departure. After all, we now see a much older Andy, and the military school setting changes from the family environs of the prior two movies.
However, those factors feel largely like windowdressing. At their core, all three stories concentrate on Chucky’s violent actions and the notion that no one believes Andy when he pins crimes on the doll.
Admittedly, the military school allows for some semi-creative ways to explore these themes, but they largely feel regurgitated. Beyond the superficial elements, Play 3 can’t find much new ground.
It also can’t develop much real entertainment. Too much of it stretches credulity, as even for a horror flick about a killer doll, a lot of the movie requires too much suspension of disbelief.
At its core, Play 3 falters simply because it lacks much entertainment value. It fails to find a real purpose and becomes little more than an uninspired rehash of prior films.