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With: Mia Wasikowska, Damon Herriman, Benedict Hardie, Lucy Velik, Tom Budge, Virginia Gay, Kiruna Stamell, Terry Norris, Amy Christian,
Written by: Mirrah Foulkes
Directed by: Mirrah Foulkes
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 105
Date: 06/05/2020

Judy & Punch (2020)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Shock Puppets

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Mirrah Foulkes's Judy & Punch follows a pretty familiar plot arc, but it at least contains an appealing performance by Mia Wasikowska, some interesting puppetwork, and some gratuitous gore.

Historically, "Punch and Judy" are the names of hand-puppets, but in this movie, they are humans: married puppeteers Punch (Damon Herriman) and Judy (Wasikowska), whose marionette shows have brought them to the verge of success.

The volatile, selfish Punch, who drinks too much, is responsible for a tragic accident that kills the couple's baby, and in the aftermath, Judy is left for dead in the woods.

Punch immediately hooks up with a local prostitute, Polly (Lucy Velik), and tries to figure out ways to keep his show going, even going so far as dressing up Polly's two children as puppets.

Meanwhile, a band of exiled, accused "witches" finds Judy and nurses her back to health, while she dreams of revenge.

From there it goes about where one would expect. One of the movie's drawbacks is that Punch is really just a one-dimensional bad guy, constantly either angry or boasting, and practically straining from the effort of it all.

Herriman, who played Manson in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, does what he can with the role, but he simply can't find a center. Then, when the movie cuts back to Judy, she's stuck waiting, though at least the "witch" colony offers some interesting visuals, such as chanting, bonfires, etc.

As a costume movie Judy & Punch might have have been a bit bawdier, perhaps something more like The Favourite. Certainly it could have come closer to horror, or dark comedy. (It has comic attempts, but they rarely inspire laughter.)

As it is, the movie skirts right along the middle, occasionally veering into welcome weirdness, but too often remaining ordinary; it has too many strings attached.

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