Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Video review: "Sucker Punch"

An overheated steampunk fantasia of girls in go-go outfits wreaking vengeance with ninja swords and machine guns, "Sucker Punch" is a cinematic bowlful of hot mess.

I'm all for crazy, off-kilter movies packed to the hilt with the fertile imagination of the creators. But this latest from "300" director Zack Snyder (who co-wrote the script with Steve Shibuya) is a greenhouse of cinematic references crammed together, sprinkled with steroid fertilizer and the heat cranked up to sweltering jungle temperature.

The result is an overgrown thicket of ideas, smashed together indiscriminately without any thought of coherence, instead relishing in the sheer cool juxtapositions of loopy elements for their own sake.

Our protagonist is Baby Doll (Emily Browning), a pint-sized pixie with blonde pigtails and a perpetually vacant gaze. Thrown into a mental hospital after tangling with her evil stepfather, Baby is determined to break out. As she is forced to dance for the evil head orderly (a slithery Oscar Isaac), her consciousness slips into the Bizarro-world universe of her "missions."

Here, she's a kick-butt warrior leading a team of hot girls firing hot lead at orcs, robots and -- in the film's one indisputably kooky-cool sequence -- a bunch of World War I Kaiser casualties brought back to life with "steam power and clockworks."

I can't deny there are parts of "Sucker Punch" that are screwy fun: Strange vignettes unhinged from reality or any sense of logic. But it takes more than a scoopful of geekboy fantasy elements to make a movie, and this one just keeps piling ingredients into the gumbo without ever considering how they'll taste together.

Extra features are rather sparse for the DVD version, but improve if you opt for the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.

The DVD edition comes with four prequel animated shorts totaling 11 minutes, and a 3-minute featurette about creating the soundtrack

Opt for the combo pack, and you get an extended cut of the movie, as well as the theatrical version. The centerpiece of the top-of-the-line package is an interactive Maximum Movie Mode feature with Snyder as your host, including picture-in-picture commentary, video pods and much more.

Movie: 2 stars out of four
Extras: 2.5 stars

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