Review: “Sucker Punch” Only a Glancing Blow

Do you think Zack Snyder’s wife knows where he keeps his stash of "Heavy Metal" magazines?

Sucker Punch” follows Baby Doll (Emily Browning) as she is packed off to a home for the “mentally insane,” where she proceeds to retreat into her imagination in an effort to maintain control over her destiny and plot a daring escape. Joining her is a troupe of stripper/prostitutes with equally silly names: Sweet Pea (Abby Cornish), Rocket (Jenna Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung).

Snyder, who conceived of the story and co-wrote the script, has called the film “’Alice in Wonderland’ with machine guns,” which sounds entertaining enough, but it would be more accurate to say “Sucker Punch” is “’The Wizard of Oz’ with machine guns—with sincerest apologies to Frank Baum.”

The film’s story and look are wildly derivative-- Baby Doll and her gang face off against the giant Samurai from “Brazil,” the Orcs from “Lord of the Rings,” the robots from “I, Robot” and the steampunk Nazis of “Hellboy”—but it still looks great, like a comic book come to life.

“Sucker Punch,” is a feast for the eyes, but absolute torture on your ears, which are bombarded with some of the worst dialogue you’ve heard in a long time. The film is essentially a series of action-packed music videos strung together by a story that takes itself far too seriously and brutal, brutal dialog.

Though the soundtrack is composed of mostly passable covers of good to great songs-“Sweet Dreams,” “White Rabbit,” “Search and Destroy”—they occasionally offer too literal interpretations of the action, almost as though Snyder decided that he wanted to have the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind,” and then figured out how to make it work perfectly.

The draw of the film is simple enough: a group of young women in lingerie, armed with samurai words and guns, do battle with a bunch of monsters to save the world—that Snyder tries to concoct some sort of deeper meaning just reeks of vain (yes, that’s a double entendre) bid for gravitas.

The film poses a number of questions that demand but never get answers: If Baby Doll’s strength presents itself through her dance, why don’t we ever see her dance? How is it that an orderly runs an insane asylum? What the hell is Jon Hamm doing with his film career?

It’s a shame that Snyder’s handling of character and dialog are so clumsy, because the man knows how to make a movie screen come to life. But in “Sucker Punch” he tries to make a film with meaning for a bunch of (overgrown) adolescent males. In trying to serve two camps, he failed both.

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