Quick Review : Sucker Punch

Posted in life after cable by - March 28, 2011

“Sucker Punch” is crazier than a cornered squirrel. It’s gnaw-off-your-own-foot crazy. Someone pitched this to rich, conservative studio people and got big money to make it, and I stand in unreserved awe. To get millions of dollars for a movie this unhinged requires serious game. To convince the ratings board that it deserves a PG-13 must have required actual magic.

SP takes place in the dimensions of 1950s Vermont and some sort of Gothic Lolita hellscape, and the action switches between their concurrent timelines. Our plucky and habitually underclothed heroine BabyDoll is a waif right out of a Keane painting, all giant watery eyes and features frozen in a mask of inscrutable sadness. Sadness, it turns out, that she comes by quite honestly.

Upon the death of her rich mother, her evil stepfather discovers that the will leaves everything to our protagonist and her little sister. He then attempts to abuse BabyDoll in some undefined way – must keep the PG13 rating, don’t you know. BabyDoll escapes his attentions only to see her beloved sister murdered in her stead. Evil Stepfather then pins the crime on BabyDoll and has her committed.

These wretched events occur in the first few minutes of the film. Then the real weirdness begins. What follows will probably seem spoilerish, and can be avoided by people who insist on seeing this movie. You may trust me, however, that no amount of plot description can spoil the batshit grandeur of this film.
I won’t tell you everything, but you have been warned.

The institution Evil Stepfather commits BabyDoll to appears to be a combination orphanage/sanitarium/brothel. Yes, I realize how icky that sounds, and it’s a big part of why I can’t understand the ratings board gave this thing a PG-13. Sure, no one gets naked and there aren’t a lot of cursewords, but the plot concerns the personality dissociation of a traumatized abuse survivor faced with a lifetime of forced prostitution. If that’s PG13, then the ratings truly mean nothing.

On with the crazy. BabyDoll learns that she must create a dance routine for the pleasure of her future customers. The gentleman who serves as her pimp also lets her know that her virginity will be sold to someone called “The High Roller” in less than a week. Unsurprisingly, she sets her mind on escape.

The dance instructor (played by Carla Gugino doing the worst “get moose and squirrel” Russian accent in recent memory) tells her to create a sexydance right on the spot, and Baby can’t bring herself to do it. She looks uncomfortable, she sways a little, and then she breaks from reality. From then on, every time she’s required to be sexual, she escapes into a fantasy world where she’s on a quest that parallels and informs her real escape plans. We never see her dance. The other orphan prostitutes marvel at her abilities, although one does complain that there’s too much writhing and groaning.

I’m not a shrink, but that is some deep and unpleasant muck to base a kid’s movie on.

The fantasy world is completely unhinged and chock full of fanboy candy – there are dragons, samurai swords, huge guns, revealing costumes, and tons of inconsequential carnage. There’s even a mech. In fact, this part of the movie could be pretty fun if it weren’t so clearly the escape mechanism of a trauma victim. The CG really is impressive, but for me it wasn’t enough to outweigh the ick factor. A movie with so dark a heart can’t be cleaned up for 7th graders without feeling dishonest and exploitative. I guess I prefer my exploitation honest.

This post was written by MisterDee

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