“Burlesque” is a big, shiny song-and-dance movie that falls somewhere between “Showgirls” and “Moulin Rouge. Christina Aguilera plays an Iowa girl who moves to L.A. to sing and dance. She finds herself in a club called “The Burlesque,” run by Cher and headlined by Kristen Bell. Naturally, through grit, determination and talent, Aguilera goes from being an unpaid waitress to the star of the show, and saves the club from bankruptcy in the process. Well, sort of. She saves the club, but it’s with her business acumen, not her singing and dancing. But whatever. It’s best not to think too hard about movies like this one. Just let them sort of wash over you and you’ll be fine.
Christina Aguilera won me over – I liked her much more than I expected to. I really wouldn’t have minded it “Burlesque” had been a rags-to-riches type story, and the title club just her first stop on her way to glory. But instead, it wants to be about that little club, and I didn’t really care about it all that much. That’s due primarily to Cher, who just seemed tired through the whole movie. She begins her big, show-stopping number with “Let’s get this over with.” She’s supposed to be fighting to keep her little club, but one wonders if that’s what’s really best for her. She looks so weary and sick of it all that maybe she should sell the club, and spend some time in a community garden. It might do her some good.
Stanley Tucci is Cher’s gay costume designer and long time compadre in Burlesque, and is by far the best, funniest, freshest thing about this film. He not only has the best lines, (“Tell me a new lie,” Cher moans. “I don’t love you,” he answers) he does the best with the worst lines, sometimes making utterly ridiculous drivel sound almost believable. Alan Cummings appears every now and then as the doorkeeper, and seems to be the only one who really understand what burlesque is about. “The Burlesque” is not a strip club, and a burlesque dance is not a striptease or a Broadway dance. To put it simply, burlesque is stranger that either. It ought to involve contortionists, and dirty jokes, and sometimes fire-breathing and juggling. The song-and-dance numbers in “Burlesque” are best when the producers remember this; once Aguilera takes centerstage, however, the numbers grow bland and generic. There’s unlikely to be single song in “Burlesque” you’ll find yourself humming the next day, and I doubt the soundtrack will be a big seller.
But “Burlesque” is guilty fun. It never lacks in glitter, glamour, or pizzazz. My wife wanted to see this one, and afterwards, I asked her what she thought. “I had fun,” she said. “it’s not going to win any Oscars, but it was pretty much what I wanted it to be.” Well said.