LET’S be honest. No one watches a movie like Burlesque for the fine acting or the nuanced witticisms. We watch it for the star power, the glamour, the performances. And boy, do these showgirls perform, as Sarah Soh discovers.
It’s like a music-video highlights reel reminiscent of old MGM show tunes – feathers, bubbles, platinum-blonde Marilyn hairdos and all.
And boy, do these showgirls perform.
From the opening sequence to the end of credits, Christina Aguilera belts out tune after tune, enough to fill out a greatest-hits album (which is probably being pressed as we speak). And while Cher would only have enough from the movie to produce a CD single, her two solo numbers are enough to stir the audience with her 60-year-old pipes.
That said, the plot is nothing new.
Leaving behind hardship and an uncertain future for the entertainment capital Los Angeles, Ali (Aguilera) stumbles upon The Burlesque Lounge, a majestic but ailing theater that is home to an inspired musical revue.
Talking herself into a cocktail waitress job from Tess (Cher), the club’s glamorous and forthright proprietor, headliner and starmaker, Ali becomes a wide-eyed sponge to The Burlesque’s captivating acts.
She finds herself entwined in a mess of interpersonal relationships. She builds a friendship with a featured dancer (Julianne Hough), finds an enemy in a troubled, jealous performer Nikki (Kristen Bell), and wins the affection of Jack (Cam Gigandet), a handsome bartender and musician who takes Ali in as a temporary roommate to help her find her financial footing. Eventually, with the help of a sharp-witted yet sensitive stage manager (Stanley Tucci) and the club’s gender-bending host (Alan Cumming), Ali makes her way from the bar to the stage.
Conquering first-night nerves and sabotage by the jealous Nikki, Ali’s spectacular voice and showmanship begins to pull in ever-increasing ticket sales. It gives Tess hope that the club would be safe from the demands of her ex-husband to sell to predatory businessman Marcus (Eric Dane).
And as Ali sheds her small-town image, she is faced with the perennial dilemma – to choose the path of rising stardom or nurture her budding romance with Jack.
Burlesque is Aguilera’s acting debut, and the movie feels like a cross between Coyote Ugly and the ill-fated Britney Spears vehicle Crossroads.
The passion between Ali and Jack seems a little forced, and Tess and Ali’s pseudo-maternal relationship comes across as being somewhat contrived and clichéd.
Forgive the cheesy lines and watch it with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
Burlesque opens January 13, 2011.