As kinetic and didactic as ever, Zack Snyder (“300″) unleashes another loud lesson of uplift. Aiming for a demographic a few years older than the one targeted in his better “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole,” Snyder continues his curriculum of empowerment and sacrifice in “Sucker Punch.” Its teen role model is pint-sized, pigtailed Babydoll (Emily Browning) who stands up to her evil stepfather, then welcomes psychosurgery during her fantasy of saving another imperiled girl. This “action fantasy” co-scripted by Snyder and Steve Shibuya starts as a music-video medley and then turns into a series of videogame battles. No sooner is her mother buried than Babydoll must defend herself and her little sister from rape by their stepfather, who commits Babydoll to the Lennox House for the Mentally Insane in Brattleboro, Vermont, where he bribes an attendant to inflict a clinically incorrect lobotomy on her. As the ice pick is positioned above her orbital socket, Babydoll visualizes the asylum as a prison where she and other patients are prostitutes. The Polish therapist who uses music and theater for treating disturbed girls is imagined as Madam Gorski. Babydoll performs four dance solos that we never see but which apparently stun everyone watching from within her fantasy. We get to see what Babydoll is fantasizing while dancing: outlandish special-effects missions with four hyper-fantasized versions of four fantasy prisoner-prostitutes based on four asylum patients. Snyder over-prescribes juvenile platitudes and takes cliches from just about every mental patient tale for a noisy nothing packed with tunes written by Björk, Bryan Ferry, Annie Lennox, Iggy Pop, Queen and Grace Slick. With Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Scott Glenn. 110m. (Bill Stamets)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.