Fantasy foolery 

Snyder puts the "suck" in Sucker Punch

Let's start with a list of films that opened across the country last Friday, but which the Carmike Village 6, the Carmike 10 and The Wilma—for one reason or another—didn't see fit to include on their schedule of screenings. Just for fun let's include the Rotten Tomatoes score for each movie:

Win Win: 93 percent

The Fifth Quarter: 85 percent

White Irish Drinkers: 52 percent

Peep World: 24 percent

The point is that they all have a better Rotten Tomatoes score than Sucker Punch, which as of today is 21 percent (a score that drops to 10 percent from the fancy pants "top critics"). The only other new release to open in Missoula last week was Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2. My editor half jokingly suggested I review that one, but let's be serious; I would have been totally confused since I never saw the original.

The larger point is that, while early spring may be a down time for quality films, the problem is exacerbated here in Missoula because Mr. Carmike, or whoever runs that company, seems to pick movies from the bottom of the barrel. The Wilma is obviously the exception, but at the moment they seem intent on making sure every last person in Missoula County sees The King's Speech before pulling it out of their rotation. The Carmike, with its 16 screens, doesn't have that excuse. And I hate to turn this review into a referendum on the cultural IQ of Missoulians, but they wouldn't choose to screen the worst films unless their complex moviegoer algorithms assured them they would do good business. Or maybe the bad movies just cost less.

And now that I've stalled long enough, I suppose we can discuss Sucker Punch, which is the worst film I've seen in several years. That's not hyperbole. If we did letter grades here at the Indy, recent atrocities like Just Go With It and Country Strong would have scored in the D/D-minus range. Sucker Punch would get an "incomplete," because an "F" would still feel like I was awarding it something. And this movie deserves nothing—not your attention, not your money and certainly not your time.

click to enlarge “Take this CGI blast from my CGI laser.”
  • “Take this CGI blast from my CGI laser.”

But there are certain segments of the population who unfortunately will enjoy this film. Those people are horny 14-year-old boys, perverts who play video games, and quite possibly Charlie Sheen. Sucker Punch is essentially a two-hour video game starring a quintet of committed 20-year-old orphans dressed in hooker costumes prancing around—often in slow motion—like a warped version of the Spice Girls in some sort of dream-within-a-fantasy-world-within-an-insane-asylum setting that not only badly attempts to rip off Inception and Annie, but also manages to incorporate some of the silliest CGI effects of all time. If this is all some inside joke by director and writer Zack Snyder, then I don't get it. And I don't think most audiences will either.

This is too bad, because as he proved with Dawn of the Dead—and to a lesser extent with 300 and Watchmen—Snyder is a competent director. But there is nothing in Sucker Punch that even approaches mediocrity. The acting is atrocious, as one might expect with a cast of characters that go by the names Baby Doll, Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie and Amber. Baby Doll (Emily Browning) is the leader of the pack. She is locked up in a mental hospital (or, as seen through her fantasies, a night club), but through the power of "dance" is able to whisk off to a second layer of dreamscape, where along with her lingerie-attired pals, she fights World War II-era zombie German soldiers and kills baby dragons. All this happens to the beat of really bad Top 40 pop songs.

The goal, ostensibly, is to escape from wherever it is they are locked up. They are aided by a mystical monkish old white man (Scott Glenn), who spews spiritual clichés like a fountain and gives them the world's vaguest scavenger hunt list of the things they need to escape. (In order, they are: map, fire, knife, key and something that you'll know when you find it). He also gives advice, as in, "Don't write a check with your mouth that you can't cash with your ass." I think the Dalai Lama said something similar once.

The most insulting part of all is that Snyder, who may have seen this train wreck coming when he got a look at the final product, has now tried to pawn off the film as some sort of new-age feminist exploration, as he did last week in an Entertainment Weekly interview. Nice try, Zack. That's why the gals get all of their marching orders from an old man, right? Sucker Punch is a cheap, trashy film without a single redeemable quality to make it worth seeing. I take that back. I did see a preview for Captain America. It looks awesome.

Sucker Punch continues at the Village 6.

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