By Gary Murray
Starring Cher, Christine Aguilera, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet, Julianne Hough, Peter Gallagher, Alan Cumming, Kristen Bell and Stanley Tucci
Written and directed by Steve Antin
Running time 1hr 40 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Matinee
The musical has been making a huge comeback in the last decade. Flicks like Sweeny Todd, Rent and Chicago have been giant draws and Glee is dominating the small screen. The latest film to try and combine music, dancing and acting is Burlesque.
The story of Burlesque is the story of Ali (Christina Aguilera) a small town girl with a big city voice who moves to LA for a better life. Almost instantly she stumbles on the run-down performing space–The Burlesque Lounge. Walking in the theater, Ali realizes that this is the place to be. She only has to convince the owner Tess (Cher).
Tess has her own problems with her ex-husband co-owner (Peter Gallagher) and her gay assistant (Stanley Tucci). There is also the financial burden hanging over the club and a businessman Marcus (Eric Dane) who wants to become a partner. We get the idea early on that he is to be our villain of the piece.
Ali, who can't get an audition, forces her way to being a cocktail waitress in the club. Jack (Cam Gigandet) is the cute bartender with a perchance with the 88 keys. He has a betrothed but lets Ali crash in his tiny apartment until she can get on her feet. Soon, Ali gets her chance to audition and wins a spot in the chorus. This irks the featured dancer (Kristen Bell) who plots a revenge.
Now that all the elements are in place, can one guess how it is all going to end? One will only be surprised if they have never seen just about any musical from the 1930's and 40's
This is a star turn for Christine Aguilera. Everyone who listens to the radio knows that she has some massive vocal chops but she holds her own in scenes with some very seasoned performers. She is light and funny, with just a hint of the naughty girl next door. Burlesque is going to launch her career as a major screen performer. Christine shows that she is a true triple threat.
In Burlesque Cher isn't acting, she's being Cher. She's won the Oscar and given some memorable performances but here she just seems to be doing her character from the old Sonny and Cher Show. She does get two numbers in the film and just nails a torch song toward the end. She shows that her voice is still an instrument to be admired.
Stanley Tucci plays that same Stanley Tucci character he played in The Devil Wears Prada and about a dozen other films Even though he gets a major share of the punch lines, they begin to run a little trite after awhile. Alan Cumming channels Joel Gray from Cabaret but without all the flash.
That may be the biggest problem with Burlesque–it reminds one of too many other films. There are elements from so many different musicals and MTV videos that it almost becomes parody. The plot is simplistic to a fault and the dialogue has such platitudes as "Every opportunity has a shelf-life."
Director Steve Antin fills his movie with musical number after musical number when he should have done some more work on the screenplay. Every good musical has scenes where people are not singing and pushing the plot along. Either that or the musical numbers drive the plot along. Here all the musical numbers are there to be musical numbers, story be damned. To be totally honest though, people will not go to a movie like Burlesque to see drama. They go to see stunning costumes, soul touching musical numbers and flashy dancing. This movie has it in spades. The problem–the best musicals have a strong solid story and the weak ones have weak plots.
Going it to this film, I figured it was going to be a stunner like Moulin Rouge or a turkey ala Showgirls. The final product is somewhere in the middle, leaning toward the good side. It is sexy and not sexual, think Maxim magazine and not Playboy. While not one of the big musical films of all time, Burlesque entertains on a base level. It may not be a movie for the ages but it is one that will generate a legion of musical fans.