Burlesque Directed by: Steve Antin Cast: Christina Aguilera, Cher, Stanley Tucci, Kristen Bell, Cam Gigandet, Eric Dane Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: November 24, 2010
PLOT: A wannabe singer/dancer ventures out to Los Angeles and is taken under the reluctant wing of a wise older woman (Cher) whose burlesque club is in danger of being sold and destroyed.
WHO'S IT FOR? Regardless of the nationwide critical blitzkrieg that is about to be unleashed on Burlesque, there are still those who will see this anyway, and they can’t be stopped. Fine. But if you’re on the fence, or perhaps only a fan of Christina Aguilera and not Cher, go see Tangled and support Mandy Moore instead. As for those who enjoy bad movies, there's great opportunity for unintentional comedy here. Enjoyable trash diving into Burlesque is not guaranteed, but it's possible.
EXPECTATIONS: My liking of musicals and love for pop music had me very curious as to whether this would be a unique concoction, one that mixed talents old and new in order to create something that speaks out with more than just glamorous costumes and flashy dance numbers.
Christina Aguilera as Ali: She's just a small town girl, living in a lonely world. You've seen this character before, and Aguilera's acting does not make Ali's existence any more special than the many who have worn her workboots before. First timer Aguilera does bring a set of pipes to her performance, and also a clear ability of hip-shaking. If only her dramatic potential in Burlesque was still not stubbornly the same as her wordless performance in the "I Turn To You" music video. Score: 4
Cher as Tess: There is no attempt by anyone in Burlesque to make this classic actress/singer carry a different aura other than that of being Cher – especially the woman herself. Carrying her off-screen legacy into the role to justify why her character would have an ego and be so revered, she is also saddled with the plot. Singing only twice in the movie, Cher’s performance mostly revolves around the hackneyed conflict that occurs whenever someone isn’t lip syncing or being in awe of Aguilera’s performer abilities. A mostly emotionless performance, her presence reaches its most intense point when she moves her right arm to break a window impulsively with a crowbar. Score: 3
Stanley Tucci as Sean: His second role in the past four years that involves him sifting through wardrobes while offering rough supportive advice to the new girl of the group, Tucci could make an entire career out of this type of character. Even when the absolute worst dialogue is dumped on him, his genuine performance makes it somehow sufferable. The constant source of inspiration to Tess whenever she is down, he is the most animated of the bunch. Score: 5
Rest of Cast: Kristen Bell plays a hot shot burlesque dancer named Nikki with selfish work ethic, and is weakly meant to stand as a sort-of villain in the story. Eric Dane fails to smolder as a rich sleazebag who is paralleled by a middle-class cheese-bag played by the sometimes guyliner-ed Cam Gigandet. Score: 3
TALKING: Because dialogue supposedly doesn't matter in musicals, Burlesque throws as much cliche/corn/crap as it can at the audience (who even only a third into the movie start laughing back at it). Sean shoots out inspirational flops like "She's beautiful on the inside," while the movie borrows wisdom reserved for cheap inspirational posters with zingers like "Life is about the choices you make." Score: 2
SIGHTS: To constantly remind you that it’s shot in Los Angeles, the cinematography constantly has a ray of sun peaking into each shot, which also gives the feeling that every outside day event must have happened at the exact same time. The hip-shaking dance numbers aren't very impressive, and the costumes are stuck in a non-flashy yearning for retro sexuality. Aguilera's dress of pearls stands out as the most unique piece of wardrobe the movie has to offer. Score: 4
SOUNDS: The soundtrack is a mixed bag, mostly with disappointments awaiting the audience. Burlesque reminds us once again that "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," as if we didn't already know this from Moulin Rouge, etc. A strange mix of Marilyn Manson's "Beautiful People" and upbeat pianos is used twice in the soundtrack, laying awkward ground for other tunes (some of them covers) that will be weird compilations of different musical styles, like the song "Express." That pop song mixes aggressive hip-hop synths with jazzy fingersnapping. Cher's solo "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" temporarily rocks the ballad-house, however random (and winking) it's inclusion may be in the whole of Burlesque. Score: 5
BEST SCENE: As terrible as her overall performance may be, Cher's song itself might be Burlesque's most credible element.
ENDING: Another semi toe-tapper that instructs the audience on what to do at a burlesque is performed, and the entire experience is capped off by a credit sequence that borrows the font used in Cabaret. It’s a sad reminder of flashy musicals that could actually mean something.
QUESTIONS: What's with the very casual usage of Alan Cumming? And also, we have a movie set in burlesque, but there's no cameo by the Pussycat Dolls?
REWATCHABILITY: In a few months, Burlesque will come to Blu-ray/DVD, where it will properly be enjoyed. There’s a chance I will share this with my friends as I sometimes do with Crossroads, but I’ll make them pay for the alcohol needed to trudge through a second watch of this one.
Probably the biggest thing that sucks about Burlesque is its pacing. The movie feels endless. It hops from one performance to the next, some of them lip-synced on stage, and then sandwiches in a weak main plot about the burlesque itself being in financial danger. (Even with those Frankie Avalon movies, what is it with these rich guys trying to ruin the party?) The movie doesn't care much (or at all) for originality, and delivers us a whopping amount of cliches as if they were original story elements. Clearly writer/director Steve Antin wanted to make his own contribution to a list of movies/musicals about hard working future superstars who come from humble places. And even more clearly, he has failed.
But, however endlessly cheesy Burlesque may be, there have indeed been junkier modern musicals before. (Yes, folks, there's been worse.) The vocal talent of pop starlet Christina Aguilera alone slightly elevates the movie beyond being something completely sterilized by corn like the sugar rush brain freeze that is From Justin To Kelly. Cher’s presence only stands to make herself an artifact, despite her claim that we haven’t seen the last of her.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10