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Review: This 'Sucker Punch' is low blow indeed

A scene with inmates of Lennox House for the Mentally Insane, from left, Jena Malone as Rocket, Emily Browning as Babydoll, Abbie Cornish as Sweet Pea.

Warner Bros. Pictures

A scene with inmates of Lennox House for the Mentally Insane, from left, Jena Malone as Rocket, Emily Browning as Babydoll, Abbie Cornish as Sweet Pea.

Sucker Punch is a movie overpowered by imagination, practically daring viewers to bail out of theaters at every turn. A few Friday matinee patrons did just that, and I haven't felt so envious of anyone in a long time.

Cribbing the worst ideas of The Last Airbender and Showgirls while trashing the brilliant conceit of Chicago, writer-director Zack Snyder concocts an incoherent mess that must be what it looks like when Scott Pilgrim throws up. Competition for next year's Razzie award for the worst movie of the year is now unofficially closed.

You might wish to drop a couple quarters to play Sucker Punch at a video game arcade but paying $10 for this theater experience is lunacy.

That makes sense, since the movie is focused on the psychotic delusions of a young woman called Baby Doll (Emily Browning, a severely limited actor). Baby Doll uses those delusions, filled with unbecoming sexuality and classroom-doodle violence, to escape from reality that's already grotesque enough. She's railroaded by her incestuous, murderous stepfather into the Lennox House for the Mentally Insane. Everything Snyder depicts inside her head suggests that's a good place for her.

Baby Doll befriends other inmates with names like Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone) and Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), who's really brunet. What I'm guessing is their reality is a cuckoo's nest of leering sexual predators and Dr. Vera Gorsky (Carla Gugino), whose overdone Eastern European accent makes a word like "focus" sound downright dirty.

Not sure how Dr. Gorsky operates but it has something to do with music, which Baby Doll mentally warps into a showgirl's accompaniment. We never see her dance, just a slight swaying of her shoulders then Snyder cuts to rapturous looks on men's faces. The dances in Baby Doll's imagination are video game levels in which she and the others fight shiny androids, a fire-breathing dragon, zombie Germans during World War I, and giant shoguns in a snowy setting stolen from Kill Bill Vol. 1. Beat that, Dancing With the Stars.

Each level holds an item to be collected and used by Baby Doll and her pals to escape Lennox House. The last item is kept secret by the mystical Wise Man played by Scott Glenn apparently because David Carradine's dead. Wise Man provides instructions to beat each level, aided by an appropriately droning techno-rock musical score.

It's all megalomaniacal junk from Snyder, but that isn't his most offensive move. The existential poetry slam bookending Sucker Punch suggests that all this objectification of women makes them stronger. It's supposed to be reassuring that men who beat, berate, molest and kill these women will get what's coming to them. Just wait, Snyder says, but in the meantime here's another femininity insult to keep you occupied.

Steve Persall can be reached at or (727) 893-8365.


Sucker Punch

Grade: F

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Scott Glenn, Oscar Isaac, Jon Hamm

Screenplay: Zack Snyder

Rating: PG-13; violence, sexuality, profanity

Running time: 109 min.

Review: This 'Sucker Punch' is low blow indeed 03/25/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 25, 2011 8:48pm]
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