Inspired by the classic Punch and Judy puppet show, Judy and Punch is a tonal and narrative mess. I believe there is a story one could adapt but this is not it.
In Seaside, which is not by the sea, Mr. Punch (Damon Herriman) and his wife Judy (Mia Wasikowska) put on a marionette show. In real life, Punch is a drunk and when Judy leaves the baby with him, he can’t go one hour without dropping the baby out the window. Caught by Judy, he tries to kill her too but she survives in the woods with a group of gypsies.
I’m not unwilling to go with playing a dead baby for laughs. If the rest of the movie had been macabrely funny, maybe. Here it’s just a one off with practically a slide whistle effect and the rest of the movie has no such absurdity. Plus, they never find the body. I was holding out hope the baby landed in a tree safely, but no, it’s just dead (which is darker than I believe the puppet show ever got).
Seaside is having its own witch hunt where women are accused of witchcraft for spurious reasons like looking at the moon too long. Punch uses this to accuse his maid and her husband of killing Judy and the baby. There’s not much commentary though. Yeah, mob rules is bad, but Punch is an abusive alcoholic anyway. He’d find a scapegoat as long as Judy wasn’t around to contest it.
And it’s sooooooo boring. Once the incident happens, it takes forever to get to the point. Judy spends the middle of the movie doing tai chi with the gypsies. Punch revels in sympathy from the townies. This does not need to take more than 90 minutes to resolve.
Judy uses her stage training to confront Punch and give him a chance to confess, but there’s no mystery about how this is going to end. There is some good stagecraft and magic tricks. Wasikowska probably learned how to do it for the role.
So the take on Punch and Judy is that the creators were an actual abusive misogynist and his wife. I think there was some satire involved in the actual Punch and Judy. Judy and Punch stops too short of satire and ends up just being an awful, boring story of a horrible baby killer.
Franchise Fred disapproves this adaptation of Punch and Judy. Judy and Punch may be the puppeteer baby killer witch hunt movie of the year, but I wouldn’t even say it’s in the top five puppeteer baby killer witch hunt movies of all time.