Burlesque exerts a campily irresistible force
Starring Cher and Christina Aguilera. Rated PG.
It’s hard to have high hopes for a concept as messy as Coyote Ugly–meets–Showgirls at the Moulin Rouge. And the dramatic performances in writer-director Steve Antin’s feature debut don’t exactly leave blood on the stage. But the movie does exert a campily irresistible force, at least until it runs out of musical oomph.
Watch the trailer for Burlesque.
One can never fault a Hollywood tune fest for lack of realism. Still, small-town Iowa gal Ali (Christina Aguilera, making her sort-of acting debut) has it a little too easy winning over the hard-shelled owner (Cher, direct from Madame Tussauds) of an L.A. burlesque house where they’ve kept old traditions alive. These include not really showing very much skin and employing sexually ambiguous men, led by Stanley Tucci, here one-upping his bitchy role in The Devil Wears Prada. Mr. Cabaret himself, Alan Cumming, has a throwaway presence, while Twilight’s Cam Gigandet is handed entirely too much screen time as the bartender our confused Ali moves in with.
She’s given a love rival in the form of a hotshot developer (Eric Dane), but there isn’t enough steam behind either of these affairs to justify all the songs they bump—the better for teenage girls to “identify” with the ageless, curiously asexual Aguilera. The movie, like its windowless location—close to bankruptcy, of course, from the start—gets by on its young star’s truly powerful voice.
Although the songs are as good as the ’20s jazz and ’60s soul numbers that initially dominate, things begin to fizzle at the 70-minute mark, when Aguilera launches into one of her industrial-strength modern numbers, followed by a power ballad that Cher really should have saved for that Tribute to Journey she’s planning for the casino circuit.
Overall, I enjoyed Burlesque, but I was surprised by the total lack of drag queens, or even drag-queen jokes. I mean, c’mon: this is Cher we’re talking about.