What to Watch Verdict
"Little Little Lies" contains some of my favorite 'Chucky' bits to date between cartoonish gags and precision needle drops, but also continues to struggle with its flashbacks.
💉 Chucky on the loose
💉 That Yeah Yeah Yeahs moment
💉 Chucky the goofball
💉 Real unfortunate ADR
💉 The show hasn't figured out how to balance flashbacks yet
💉 Wobbly narrative structure
This post contains spoilers for Chucky. Check out our last review here.
Remember last week how I wondered if Don Mancini was teasing the inclusion of Chucky’s revealed ability to control multiple dolls at once? If you caught any advertisements for Chucky over the last few days, you’d know that’s the territory “Little Little Lies” explores. Everything thus far has been about Charles Lee Ray’s childhood, Jake Wheeler’s (Zackary Arthur) treatment as a gay outsider and Chucky’s desire to pass on his slasher knowledge. “Little Little Lies” pushes the show back into the known Child’s Play continuity and makes the introductions everyone’s been waiting for — hello, Jennifer Tilly! Welcome back, Fiona Dourif!
For those who haven’t seen Cult of Chucky or are new to the franchise via Chucky, Don Mancini does his best to summarize the events of seven Child’s Play movies in a single episode of television. Chucky has the disadvantage of furthering a narrative throughline that’s evolved across multiple cinematic releases, and while the show notches 10 episodes, time is still precious.
It’s hard to fault any newcomer’s confusion the first time we see Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly) and Nica (Fiona Dourif) — the latter who is possessed by the divided soul of Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) — engaging in steamy lingerie passion. To set the stage, Mancini employs flashbacks that follow a Tommy Wiseau lookalike — aka pre-Child’s Play Charles Lee Ray as played by Brad Dourif — and Tiff in the same hotel years before any voodoo body-swapping but still just as deadly.
It’s necessary accommodation for first-time viewership, executed with audible wonkiness that feels distractingly manufactured.
The only way for newbies to understand that flashbacks depict the origin of Charles Lee Ray and Tiffany Valentine is by dubbing Brad Dourif and Jennifer Tilly’s voices atop performances, which is some frankly awful ADR. Not "ha ha cute" awful, either. I’ve found that Chucky faces its biggest struggles when creating not-yet-existent backstories for Child’s Play characters via backtracks, especially the Chuckster. “Little Little Lies” is another glaring example since rewinds unlock nothing profound about Chucky beyond the confirmation that a psycho who implanted his soul into a children’s plaything has been a psycho forever. The ADR clunkiness only makes things worse in these instances, but again, it’s hard to fault Mancini for including such mythology. Devout Child’s Play obsessors like myself don’t need reminders — that doesn’t mean franchise virgins don’t either.
In modern Hackensack times, Chucky embraces cartoonish outrage and maniacal glee. “Little Little Lies” buries the serial killer mentorship angle because Jake, his podcaster crush Devon Evans (Bjorgvin Arnarson) and enemy-turned-ally Lexy Cross (Alyvia Alyn Lind) have formed their superteam. Chucky is now Hackensack’s villain, still as his scorched, half-melted iteration. Advancement is slim for the trio in “Little Little Lies” because writers are more focused on introducing familiar faces and getting Chucky into a presentable new vessel. Jake, Lexy and Devon are otherwise chasing Chucky between the Cross’ landmark mansion or school, except for a quick breather when Jake steals a smooch from Devon as a brief “d'aww” moment. In the madness, there’s still beauty.
Elsewhere, Mancini affords Chucky more deranged fooling around in this episode — whether that’s the damaged doll or Nica.
Lexy's pipsqueak little sister Caroline Cross (Carina Battrick) is horrified by Chucky’s "Phantom of the Toy Store" appearance, so father Nathan Cross (Michael Therriault) dumps Chucky down a hospital garbage chute — into a pile of discarded syringes. Chucky surfaces for air with multiple needles sticking into his rubbery exterior as he starts swimming around the garbage bin high out of his mind. It’s the loopy, toony side of Chucky that comes out more in “Little Little Lies” and pushes the technical elements of puppetry to slapstick-sinister lengths. Same when he later peers into Caroline’s bedroom as she clutches a replacement “Tommy” doll Nathan purchased online — another Good Guy — or his closing reveal of the episode's beheaded victim to “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. These are the moments that Chucky is nailing; an entertaining and zany slasher spree with a mismanaged structure.
Let’s also pay respect to Fiona Dourif, who slouches and grumbles her way through an impersonation of father Brad Dourif voicing Chucky. Fiona’s New Jersian is on full display, and then Chucky drops its first bombshell — Nica regains control of her body when Nica-Chucky glimpses the crimson sight of blood. Nica collapses as a person with paraplegia despite Chucky’s ability to use Nica’s legs without impairment and lucidly acknowledges she’s fighting Chucky’s soul to pilot her own body. This happens while Jennifer Tilly reignites Tiff’s lovesick charm as she begs Chucky for Swedish meatballs since their passionate canoodling has made her hungry and darts to clothe herself, so Chucky’s lapse is a secret at the moment. A rare weakness that Chucky laughs away before slitting the throat of a bound and gagged prisoner.
After five episodes, I can say that I’m for certain having fun with Chucky, while addressing its messiness as a cohesive episodic package. “Little Little Lies” captures the show at its best and worst, which is still enjoyable — especially for lifelong Chucky lovers. Flashbacks seem to be throwing wrenches into each episode’s momentum, but Chucky’s always there to hoist our spirits. Maybe he’s indulging in medical cocktails or evolving his powers yet again or beheading an authority figure at a town hall assembly.
“Little Little Lies” is punctuated by not only Brad Dourif’s sinister Chucky cackle once the proverbial fuse has been lit, but now his daughter Fiona’s rather spot-on mimicry. It’s devious, dangerous and a tiny smatter wholesome as reunions doom Hackensack’s suburbia bubble that’s already about to burst if Nathan’s frustration with negligent wife and shady mayor Michelle Cross (Barbara Alyn Woods) is any indication.
Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.