Burlesque (Review)

BURLESQUE
(11/24/10; Musical)
Cher, Christina Aguilera, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet, Julianne Hough, Alan Cumming, Peter Gallagher, Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci
SCR/DIR: Steven Antin
MPAA: PG-13 for sexual content including several suggestive dance routines, partial nudity, language and some thematic material.
1 hour 59 mins
BOX: $39,440,655

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

Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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