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>> Sunday, March 27, 2011

Is it pronounced 'sucker' or 'chump'?

Before Sucker Punch started I was fairly interested in the movie. I didn't really care for 300 but the style set a new standard for cinematography. As Sucker Punch started to roll, I was interested. As the film continued on I began to wonder why it existed and sooner than later I just didn't care anymore - and I really, really wanted to care because what I was seeing looked so incredibly cool. Sigh... it was 300 all over again...

I don't know for sure if I can tell you exactly what Sucker Punch was about - that may be damn near impossible (and not in an Adjustment Bureau kind of way). If I were to try though (which I won't), the basics would go something like this synopsis from IMDb:

A young girl named Baby Doll (played by Emily Browning) is institutionalized by her abusive stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the mental facility.

Now, that synopsis tells a lot about just what's wrong with this film. For one, this 'alternate reality' that is spoken of is not the fire-breathing dragon, sword-wielding, cool as hell reality so much of Sucker Punch seems to be centered around in its trailers and advertisements. In fact, the alternate reality is one akin to the film Burlesque, where the girls (including Baby Doll) dance for high rollers in order to please the owner of the brothel, a man named Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac). The visuals everybody is hoping for only populate when Baby Doll does one of her astounding dances for the high rollers. It's a sort of 'interpretive' dance, I guess - and those moments end up playing out more as short films with a loose tie to 'reality' than anything else. So that aspect by itself was disappointing enough let alone the rest of the film.

The other thing that bothered me is that the film may have been a lot stronger had they gotten rid of the bookends of the film, and proposed it as what the film is - a stylized fantasy. Keep in mind, we're already watching a movie here. We've (supposedly) accepted the reality of the images placed in front of us and would easily accept Sucker Punch as a film about a group of girls who escape from a brothel - without the need for the nonsensical mental institution plot line. It wouldn't have hurt to also avoid the attempt to try and make this sisterhood film all about feelings and girl power - especially when it's painfully obvious someone like Vanessa Hudgens is only present in this film to shed her 'good girl' image she's gained with films like High School Musical.

As for the escape plan the girls hatch up, I'm left a little underwhelmed by what purpose the items they needed to gather actually served. Even then, the items themselves never seemed to lead to a full plan that didn't seem last minute and therefore raises the question of how they knew to get the items in the first place. The more I watched the film and noticed these things, the more I thought of the people who wrote the final draft of Sucker Punch. Like if they actually sat together and read it all in one shot to see if any of it was cohesive and relevant. It seemed they wrote every tenth page or so and came up with some good stuff, then hired someone else to come in and write the rest. The best way to describe this film is that its an utter mess of tangled ideas.

I regret to give Sucker Punch a closed door. I ultimately had higher hopes for a film that looked so visually interesting and seemed to have great promise. It leaves you confused, sometimes bored and wondering why you spent the money to see it in the first place. Sucker Punch just doesn't seem to deliver the 'punch' presented in it's title as much as it leaves you hanging with the word 'sucker...'.

*Stills courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


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