JANUARY 11, 2011
Sometimes I wonder why there weren’t more Child’s Play ripoffs, but I think Dolly Dearest has the answer – the concept was just too goofy to work more than once. I suspect the reason that the sequels got increasingly silly (I hated the 5th movie) was because the scare factor only worked once, due to it being a rather new idea (having a genuinely good director in Tom Holland didn’t hurt). So it’s not too surprising that Dolly doesn’t really have a lot of doll action and adds a possessed little girl into the mix.
It also pretty much sucks. Writer/director Maria Lease kept switching gears too often; at first she seems to be suggesting that the little girl is possessed or just plain troubled by the doll and possibly might end up being the killer herself, but then the girl disappears for about 20 minutes while we switch focus to the doll factory, where we learn that ALL of the dolls are possessed. Then the movie stops cold so a nun and Rip Torn (playing a Mexican!) can explain everything to mom Denise Crosby. Finally, Torn and the dad who runs the factory decide to put an end to all of this nonsense, again leaving the little girl out of it. Imagine if Andy Barclay just disappeared from Child’s Play halfway through? One could assume she just did these things to distinguish her film from Holland’s, but all it did was make me appreciate that film all the more. Child’s Play is how you do a killer doll movie, and Dolly Dearest is how you don’t.
Having several dolls running around also hurts the movie. It’s funny, when Child’s Play 3 began and showed Chucky’s blood being dripped into a vat of plastic, I figured it would make several Chuckys – now I know what a potentially bad idea that would be. One doll is scary – it can hide, use your “it’s just a doll” attitude to its advantage, etc (I can’t believe I am dissecting this). But with a whole bunch of dolls, it’s just another tiny killers movie like Critters or whatever. Worse, the doll has no personality whatsoever. It utters a few “creepy” lines here and there like “Come play with me!” or whatever, but it’s all generic crap like that, and its signature move seems to be scurrying around in the background while the actor in the foreground looks in the wrong direction.
The humans aren’t much better. Again, Rip Torn plays a Mexican, so there’s some inherent value in that, but the family members are terribly bland, with the exception of the son who is just plain annoying. And poor Lupe Ontiveros, playing one of her several hundred housekeeper roles, is also stuck playing another stereotype – the superstitious Catholic who has to carry crucifixes around at all times and pray in every other scene. She’s also the first to die though, sparing her from being the one to explain everything later (the nun does that – it’s her character’s sister, natch).
And the ending! I’ve never seen something so incredibly botched and sloppy. Sam Bottoms (the dad) and Torn decide to blow up the factory with all the dolls. I’m of the opinion that blowing up an ancient curse wouldn’t work – can’t the giant blob of animated red light that we saw at the beginning of the movie just transfer to something else? But anyway, that’s their plan. And we see the dolls running around and putting out all of the dynamite that they are tossing around, but nothing comes of it! They don’t even seem to notice, and the place blows up good anyway, rendering every single shot of the dolls putting the dynamite out completely worthless. And really, it’s that simple – they just run around with dynamite, blow it up, and the movie’s over. Hell, Torn even survives! I figured the only reason he was in the movie was to provide it with one last death in the climax, since they can’t kill anyone in the family, but no, he runs out with Bottoms and then their stunt doubles jump out of harm’s way. Screw you, movie. I had my heart set on a Rip Torn version of “Ay dios mio!” and you took it from me.
Oh, and you can’t pass off Santa Clarita for Mexico. Even before I double checked on the IMDb, I was like “This doesn’t look like Mexico to me. I’m pretty sure I saw that road on the way to play paintball last month.” Next time I go play paintball I will ask the locals where they shot the movie, and then I will shoot the hell out of that studio (with paint).
And this fucking thing is on the cover of Fangoria, so if Ms. Lease ever does a public appearance I’m going to have to talk to her so I can get her autograph (since I finished my quest to obtain every issue of Fango, I picked up another – getting every cover signed by the director of the movie on it). The hell am I going to say? “Hey, nice to meet you... I really liked, uh... the end titles, because at least they spelled Lupe Ontiveros’ name right on those (they didn’t in the opening credits).”
What say you?