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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.54%
Worth A Look: 12.68%
Average: 1.41%
Pretty Bad: 22.54%
Total Crap40.85%

6 reviews, 35 user ratings

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Sucker Punch
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by Erik Childress

"Zack Snyder Goes To Tideland"
1 stars

It must be a rite of passage for any director labeled a "visionary" at some point to embark on telling a story of psychological female fantasy. Peter Jackson took a pair of murderesses through their own fantastical escape world in Heavenly Creatures. Spike Jonze took a son of divorce into the land of the Wild Things. One might even say Darren Aronofsky plunged a young ballerina into a nightmare fantasy of her own making in Black Swan. Not every director achieves such acclaim with this foray into grief management, however. Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland was an ugly Narnian mess that no one would ever confuse with The Wizard of Oz. And when Terry Gilliam went off book from the money men who normally funded his over-budget projects, we were left with the disaster Tideland about a young, orphaned girl who used a fantasy world to aid in her sorrow. Now, it is Zack Snyder's turn, a director who some might be skittish about putting in the same category as those others but nevertheless got the franchise tag of "visionary" by the studio that put out his adaptations of the graphic novels, 300 & Watchmen. For the first time, the director is working with his own material in Sucker Punch, a film that certainly owes a lot to Mr. Gilliam and the final ten minutes of Brazil. Though most of its debt belongs to Tideland.

In a promising opening sequence that owes a lot to Snyder's style, the young Baby Doll (Emily Browning) and her sister are left to their abusive stepfather. When tragedy occurs, she is shipped off to a Vermont mental ward where the head orderly, Blue (Oscar Isaac, doing his worst David Krumholtz), is bribed into guaranteeing a lobotomy as treatment. Just as she is about to have her brains scrambled though, the grayness of the hospital "theater" becomes an actual one with the girls recast as dancers. Among them are Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Amber (Jamie Chung), and sisters Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and Rocket (Jena Malone), whom Baby Doll saves from a kitchen attack for stealing. The resident therapst/dance instructor is Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino), with the voice of a German madam who tries to help her patients "discover their weapons" to help them deal. In this particular fantasy world that involves putting on stripper music until they find their rhythm on the dance floor.

Baby Doll finds her rhythm all right. So much so that her interpretative dance skills is enough to put everyone, including herself, into a trance that places her inside a fantasy within her fantasy. This time she is cast as a Sailor Moon-esque warrior fighting off Nazi zombie robots, taking down dragons and generally kicking ass in a way she never could in the real world. In that world she is actually a pre-lobotomy patient imagining she can put men into a trance by copying the moves of Miranda July. Actually, we never see those moves aside from a few momentary shoulder shifts and a facial expression that exudes as much sexuality as a runaway desperately auditioning at the Spearmint Rhino. Nor should we WANT to see those moves since the last thing a movie purportedly about female empowerment should want to express is a woman forced into using a pair of male fantasies to distract herself and the audience from the real pain.

Not that the real pain of Sucker Punch isn't up close and personal in Snyder's storytelling this time out. Why a seemingly sheltered girl from the perceived midpoint of the 20th century would escape into a world out of the mind of a Scott Pilgrim fan is baffling. If that is the wrong question to ask, maybe we can focus back to the question within a question as to why Snyder and co-writer Steve Shibuya chose to take the Coyote Ugly approach to feminism rather than attacking with the brain head-on. If the film had loosened its structure to be more Shutter Island meets anime with Gugino's "doctor" treating Baby Doll one-on-one as she deals with her psyche through the fantasy world of guns, missions and protecting her fellow inmates, Snyder may have had something. As it stands now, the film's idea of treatment is telling rape victims in the moment to go to their happy place and all will be fine. If nothing else, Sucker Punch brings a whole new perspective to what is actually going on inside the head of lapdancers.

Browning is basically playing the same character she did in the Tale of Two Sisters remake, The Uninvited, as a mental patient potentially responsible for the death of her sister that is prone to imaginary flights of fancy to protect herself from her own horrors. Outside of the action beats, she is given even less to do here. Poor Abbie Cornish, touted as a potential Oscar nominee for her turn in Jane Campion's Bright Star, is saddled with the Ernest Borgnine role from The Poseidon Adventure complete with loss on the journey and rising to belief in their escape plan. The fate of the other three girls is not even important enough for Snyder to acknowledge once the film sets its foot firmly back into reality. Sucker Punch, undeniably, is visually impressive throughout most of its running time and that aids in the film's most thorough set piece involving the Nazi zombie robots. Go ahead and repeat that if you must.

However the scenes in-between the fantasies is less the darkness of the heroine from Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth and more the boring camp of former Goonie-hater Steve Antin's Burlesque. Empathy for Baby Doll is cast aside almost entirely once her stage one fantasy flashback begins and our interest in narrative clarity soon follows. Sucker Punch is a confused mess from nearly top-to-bottom and the only visionary tag that should be branded to Zack Snyder afterwards is that he was thinking clearly enough to sign on to his forthcoming Superman reboot before Warner Bros. got a final look at his first original and tried to hide it from critics.

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originally posted: 03/25/11 01:59:54
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User Comments

5/03/15 Chilly Dong Thornton did I really just read someone call this movie a right brain classic? 1 stars
3/22/14 gc Critics need to lighten up! Cool music, unique plot idea and kick ass action scenes. 4 stars
2/08/14 zeng8r terrifically awful, but mainly awful 2 stars
8/25/13 Yourmom Amazing mind twister movie i loved it:) 5 stars
4/04/13 Michael Fiddes I dont know why people think this is bad Agree with Stephen, visually and mentally stunning 5 stars
6/05/12 Amy I have the purest pity for Peter, Erik and brian but glad Rob has eyes to see, entertainme 4 stars
1/04/12 Jake To those who gave this more than two stars: Did we watch the same film? 2 stars
12/24/11 debbie hodgdon not really a good plot, only a little eye candy, bad ending 2 stars
9/08/11 Pret Solidly entertaining, as long as you get on board in the way you are supposed to 4 stars
8/11/11 larsen A-List grindhouse; This is a guilty pleasure, not high art! Get over yourselves! 4 stars
7/17/11 Faraz The sensual dance in front of the fat guy was good. Otherwise sucked. 2 stars
7/03/11 othree Sexy, visual, girls w/ guns to music! oh & bad guys! *wheee* 4 stars
5/15/11 stephen nettles Visually and mentally stunning 4 stars
4/16/11 LadyGrinningSoul It wasnt as bad as everyone made it seem. People need to chill out 3 stars
4/02/11 Man out 6 bucks Unwatchable schlock which makes by comparison any 50 Cent video into a Tchaikovsky ballet. 1 stars
4/02/11 William Hrt Yes a bad film, for IQs lower than 110 4 stars
4/02/11 Steve A Wip flick sanitized for todays market wrapped around crazy over the top action. Winning 4 stars
3/31/11 artemi great film- wish all the critics would just pull the fingers out of their asses like you :) 5 stars
3/31/11 Sean It’s a visual feast with a script just good enough to stay out of its way. 5 stars
3/30/11 CruZControL Great review for a great movie. Kudos from us *crazy* greek folks @ 5 stars
3/29/11 Fil great movie, interesting review. 5 stars
3/29/11 cooler awful film, just terrible 1 stars
3/28/11 JL My mouth was agape at how ridiculous and BAD this was. Plot=Showgirls-in-a-video-game. Nuf. 1 stars
3/28/11 Koolaid I disagree .entertained the whole time. Don't see how anyone can say worst of all time 5 stars
3/28/11 Wil Original? No. The movie was an adaptation of One Flew over the Cuckoo's nes. 1 stars
3/28/11 Retribution Inc. I am stupider for having seen this shit. 1 stars
3/28/11 Reason Prevails Wow. This is one of the worst so-called reviews I've ever read. Ever. 4 stars
3/28/11 Alfonso Hill I appreciate all the references in the review. 5 stars
3/28/11 Peter Coulter 5 stars
3/27/11 JC Hey, at least it wasn't in 3-D. 1 stars
3/27/11 sisterHood i believe this movie is about how sisters love each other 5 stars
3/27/11 Fully Thank you for authenticating my misery watching this film. 1 stars
3/27/11 Quin Browne The film produced something excellent--one of the funniest reviews I've ever read. 1 stars
3/26/11 Jack Great review Erik. 1 stars
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  25-Mar-2011 (PG-13)
  DVD: 28-Jun-2011


  DVD: 28-Jun-2011

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