‘Sucker Punch’ is like a byproduct of fanboy focus group

April 5, 2011

Dragons, zombie Nazis, faceless robots, orcs, towering samurai, scantily clad babes with guns: “Sucker Punch” is like a byproduct of some of fanboy focus group.

It’s as though director Zack Snyder simply plucked items off the shelves of better films and stuck them in his cart. And his script has all the depth and excitement of a shopping list.

Baby Doll (played by Emily Browning) suffers the loss of her mother, and, in an attempt to free her sister and herself from the grimy hands of her abusive stepfather, she gets shipped to an equally grimy mental institution where, presumably, only hot chicks are kept (Randall McMurphy would have had a field day). While there, she escapes into a fantasy world in which she and the other patients “empower” themselves as slutty dancers on a stage.

But Snyder, who has gained credibility with “300” and “Watchmen,” can’t let it rest there, for that would only give audiences some unholy union of “Burlesque” and “Girl, Interrupted.” So he dog piles on the aforementioned fantasy tangents into which the women retreat while “dancing,” making the whole thing into some mythical quest of epic proportions.

And by “mythical quest” I mean “catastrophic suck-fest.”

I know the whole film exists to satiate the pubescent heterosexual male moviegoers, but I was raised on the same diet of film, video games and raging hormones, so I’m no stranger to the culture. But “Punch” never fully delivers on any of its tawdry teases, and its rallying cries of girl power are questionable at best.

Ms. Doll is joined by Blondie (played by Vanessa Hudgens), Amber (played by Jamie Chung), and sisters Sweet Pea (played by Abbie Cornish) and Rocket (played by Jena Malone). None of them is really distinguishable from the next, and all are equally expendable as cowriter Snyder presents them. They must obtain several objects around the asylum/strip club to enable their escape, all under the guidance of a supposed Zen master (played by Scott Glenn) who possesses all the wisdom of a stale fortune cookie.

Each object carries with it a mission to faraway lands, which just gives Snyder a chance to (over-)use his friend the green screen.

None of the lands are terribly engaging, since Snyder is more focused on finding obscure angles at which he can place his camera and provide more slow-motion than a sports highlight reel. And since we know these worlds are only to be occupied for a short period of time, they carry zero opportunity for audience involvement.

In fact, since the whole premise is merely a dream (relax, “Inception” junkies, that film explored the parameters of dreams; it did not just have characters slip in and out of them), it’s difficult to invest fleeting attention to the action.

“Sucker Punch” is merely a lap dance of a movie - it flirts, teases and promises, only to vanish the moment it has your money.

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