Burlesque – Review


The perfect ladies’ night out movie this holiday weekend.

Movie musicals are generally rated on a much harsher scale than other genres. They are usually either excellent or awful with very little in between. In 2002, director/choreographer Rob Marshall successfully brought back the movie musical spectacular with Chicago, the fabulously flashy story about a flapper on Death Row. Then in 2009, the same director also successfully killed the movie musical spectacular with Nine, the adaptation of Fellini’s 8 ½ that had an all-star cast but only a few memorable songs. The trailers for Burlesque were clichéd, making it unclear as to which side of the movie musical scale it would reach. In this case, the movie is much better than the marketing.

Christina Aguilera plays Ali, a girl from Iowa who makes her way to Los Angeles to be a star. She stumbles upon a burlesque club and is mesmerized by the tease, the talent, and the glamour of its dancing girls. She makes friends with bartender Jack (Cam Gigandet, Twilight), and when she isn’t hired as a dancer by Tess (Cher), she begins waiting tables. Soon she is out of money and alone, and Jack, though engaged, offers her his couch.

Tess co-owns the burlesque club with her ex-husband Vince (Peter Gallagher), and they are in danger of losing the club to a wealthy developer. She is under pressure from Vince to sell the club, but she takes solace in her best friend Sean (Stanley Tucci) and in playing Mother Hen to her dancing girls. Ali desperately wants to dance, and finally auditions for Tess, landing her dream job. When former darling of the club Nikki (Kristen Bell) tries to sabotage Ali, her plan backfires and Ali becomes the club’s second dancer who also sings – the first being Tess herself.

The plot is obviously nothing new, but Burlesque is done with so much enthusiasm, it’s impossible to fault it for that. There are ten original songs written for the film, all are toe-tappingly amazing. The costumes, the choreography, the burlesque tease, it’s so easy to see how Ali could be entranced by it all. What girl wouldn’t want to have that wardrobe, that eyeshadow, THOSE SHOES? But if the film can’t be faulted for its familiar plot or sheer giddiness, it can certainly be faulted for its shameful underuse of Alan Cumming. He is one of the best actors out there and he is given less than five minutes of screen time.

But the real questions still remain. Can Christina Aguilera really carry a movie? Does Cher still have what it takes? As we all know, Aguilera’s voice is incredibly powerful. Her acting skills aren’t anywhere near perfect, but she holds her own as the romantic lead against Gigandet. Cher commands the screen just as well as she ever has. In scenes with both divas, Cher demands attention, clearly the better actress. Which is probably why the two don’t share a duet. No diva wants to be upstaged.

Burlesque is like Chicago-lite: all the glitz but not as much substance. Perhaps that’s thanks to director Steve Antin, whose earlier projects include music videos (and starring in The Goonies as Troy the jock), or a script that underwent several revisions from the original Diablo Cody penned screenplay. But Burlesque razzle dazzles the audience so much that it doesn’t matter. The eye candy is abundant too, with plenty of scantily clad dancers and a buff leading man. Even on a harsh movie musical rating scale, Burlesque registers up there at fabulous.

Director: Steve Antin
Notable Cast: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Stanley Tucci, Peter Gallagher, Kristen Bell, Alan Cumming
Writer(s): Diablo Cody, Steve Antin, Susannah Grant

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