'Sucker Punch' review: A confounding, divisive dudestravaganza

*** (out of four)

At the Lennox Home for the Mentally Insane, the patients are all surprisingly gorgeous and, in a bit of reality bending, required to perfect their own specific dance routines. While plotting her escape, Babydoll (Emily Browning) daydreams mid-dance about a world in which she and her cleavage-baring, thigh-high-boot-wearing cohorts (Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung) fight samurai robots, giant dragons and WWI German zombies.

The buzz: Director Zack Snyder’s first movie not based on a zombie film (“Dawn of the Dead”), kids book (“Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole”) or graphic novel (“300,” “Watchmen”) might be his comic bookiest of them all. In “Sucker Punch,” all women are angels, men are sleazebags and dialogue is mostly filler between blowout action sequences that play like a Pussycat Dolls promo directed by Quentin Tarantino and Peter Jackson.

The verdict: So is the movie about the limited power of imagination or just hotties kicking ass? “Sucker Punch” is a backstage musical where the stage is a battlefield and the amps are cranked to 11. Snyder objectifies to empower; these girls may be all eyelashes and short skirts, but they’re also rejecting the world’s perception of them, whether that means fighting back or disappearing into fantasy. That’s why the movie feels hollow or oddly lacking in fun: Its circumstances are horrible, and the characters’ escape is only temporary. Of course, with guns blazing and skin glowing, the assets here are scientifically designed to give the people what they want, and what they get is a clunky yet campy burlesque video game of psychological warfare. Are you not entertained?

Did you know? Assumedly to maintain its PG-13 rating, the movie censors an obvious F-word in the middle of a violent fight against hideous monsters and dragons. So glad the ratings board is watching out for the truly scary stuff like, uh, words.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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