Aguilera makes a pleasant film debut alongside Cher, who returns to the big screen after an extended absence. Aguilera plays Ali, a small-town gal with a big heart and a bigger dream. She wants to be a star and her unvarnished enthusiasm leads her to a splashy club in Los Angeles called Burlesque, an odd place that falls somewhere between a strip joint and the club in Moulin Rouge (2001). If a place like this actually existed, it wouldn’t surprise me that it was about to lose its lease and be shut down – one of the many tired clichés.
She lands a job as a waitress and manages to get a shot at dancing in the chorus. But we all know it’s only a matter of time until she gets a chance to release that big Christina Aguilera voice. I suppose, as vehicles for pop singers go, this is no worse than Purple Rain (1984) – have you tried watching that movie lately?
After the subversive awfulness of Showgirls (1995) and unbridled razzle-dazzle of Moulin Rouge, it’s a little simplistic, but one tiny adjustment might have made a huge difference: if this were a straight musical, characters would have the freedom to burst into song wherever they wanted, which would have shifted this into a fantasy world. You can excuse a lot of things in a fantasy. But by confining all the songs – even the most personal ones – to a stage, it grounds the movie with a reality that makes everything seem absurd.
Tucci is a treasure and has a lot of fun as Cher’s gay assistant; Aguilera holds her own, primarily in the musical numbers. But Cher is such an odd presence. Yes, she’s an icon – but watching this, it’s hard to remember why. Burlesque is a good looking film but the editing is so frantic, it’s hard to really see much or get a sense of rhythm.
More than anything else, this film screams for someone to turn it into a stage play. (Screen Gems)
— DENNIS WILLIS