Only a sucker would sit through this mess

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Friday, March 25, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

It’s not enough for “Sucker Punch” to be dumb and tedious. Toward the end, it must also reach for cosmic meaning.

The result is an epic flame-out for director Zack Snyder, who nurtured this script while he was making the box-office hits “300” and “Watchmen.”

Indeed, “Sucker Punch” is the kind of loony project that could only be made by somebody with a little clout.

Since the movie appears to take place in different layers of reality, it’s a little hard to describe. Apparently we are in the imagination of a young woman who is, in a nesting-doll kind of way, a disinherited orphan, asylum patient, exotic dancer and video-game warrior-chick avatar.

She is called Baby Doll (Emily Browning, “The Uninvited”), and she goes through most of the movie in a schoolgirl outfit that emphasizes the fact that although the actress is over 20, she looks about 12.

At the asylum, this falsely imprisoned girl is going to be lobotomized, and what follows is, possibly, what goes through her mind. Baby Doll is befriended in a kind of rundown bordello, where the women don’t seem to actually do anything.

Her co-conspirators are Sweet Pea (Abby Cornish, from “Bright Star”), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung). On this level of reality, the hospital’s doctor (Carla Gugino) has become a dance instructor, and a creepy orderly (Jason Isaacs) has become the tyrannical owner of the place.

Fantasy sequences are scattered throughout, and these show Snyder at his happiest: creating digitally-enhanced mayhem through different time periods.

For whatever reason, the settings include ancient China, a World War I battlefield (complete with zeppelins, which look great when they blow up), and some other place where they have dragons.

I am the last person to complain about an army of zombie robots advancing across a battlefield and getting themselves mowed down by a troupe of warrior women. Go ahead, make my day. But these adventures are both mystifying and overly literal.

Baby Doll and the others have been given a list of items to procure, which, instead of just grabbing a knife from the kitchen or something, they must go through elaborate methods to steal (and then blast their way through a virtual-reality version of the same thing).

But that’s trying to make sense out of a movie that’s meant to be enigmatic. It’s all about levels of reality, you see, and the liberating role of fiction and imagination.

One thing about fiction: It usually has suspense, which this movie has none of, and the mind games make “Inception” look like “Citizen Kane.” This film is wrong from the start.

Even more alarming: Zack Snyder has promised a “director’s cut” that is 18 minutes longer than this one. That’s one DVD special edition I think I will skip.

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