Written, unsurprisingly, by Don Mancini and directed by John Lafia, Child’s Play 2 hit theaters two years after its predecessor, picking up in real-time with young Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) as he’s taken in by foster parents Joanne (Jenny Agutter) and Phil (Gerrit Graham). After Chucky’s death at the end of the first film, the police denied what transpired to protect their own careers – after all, who would believe them? – and Andy’s mom, Karen, was committed for standing by her son’s story, while the Play Pals toy company, having suffered a bit of a public relations hit due to the association of one of their Good Guy dolls to with handful of murders, obtained the burnt husk of Chucky in an attempt to rebuild it and prove nothing was wrong with the doll.
Instead, of course, they inadvertently end up bringing Chucky back to life, and the doll immediately sets about tracking Andy down to finish what he started and possess the kid’s body once and for all.
If Child’s Play was a surprisingly well-reserved film that capitalized on slowly ratcheting up the suspense level while keeping Chucky close to its chest until the final act, then Child’s Play 2 is its wild sibling, one that lets loose from the get-go by accepting that the red-headed, serial killing cat is out of the bag. The film wastes no time in getting the ball rolling on the simple fact that we’re all here for more Chucky; within fifteen minutes, he’s on screen in full, calling Andy’s foster care center in an effort to figure out his whereabouts and holding an unlucky Play Pals employee hostage with a plastic water gun.
The sequel’s biggest strength is simply how aware it is of the fact that Chucky is the draw here, giving Dourif more to do the second time out by upping Chucky’s deliciously dark humor. Compared to, say, Michael or Jason, Chucky has a full-blown personality that allows him to interact with others in ways that those silent killers simply never have been able to, from dishing out one-liners before killing his victims to the back-and-forth he has with Andy’s foster sister, Kyle (Christine Elise), to his relationship with Andy, whom he relishes screwing with.
It’s also easy to liken him to Freddy, who actor Robert Englund also infused with a boatload of personality, but whereas that character’s goal was simply to murder as many teens as he could – because what else does he have going for him? – Chucky’s is slightly more appealing: He genuinely wants to escape his plastic body, at least in these early films, and no amount of bloodshed will change the fact that if he doesn’t get Andy – the one he’s tied to through the voodoo logic behind sharing his secret to the boy – then he’ll be stuck in his Good Guy body for good.
As a character, Chucky only benefits from the fact that he gets more to say and do here in a way that solidifies his personality as the one that people think of when they think of the character. Yes, he’s good in Child’s Play, but he’s great in Child’s Play 2, and watching the film unfold is watching the franchise cement his status as the icon fans know and love. As inseparable as Englund is to Freddy, so, too, is Dourif to Chucky, perhaps even more so, with his maniacal laugh, sarcastic wit and ability to drop an F-bomb with palpable zest, and it’s all thanks to this first sequel’s self-awareness about the gift it had in him that people still know who Chucky is all these years later.