Burlesque * * *

Genre: Musical

Director: Steve Antin

Writer: Steve Antin

Cast: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Stanley Tucci, Kristen Bell, Cam Gigandet, Eric Dane

Running Length: 119 minutes

Synopsis: Escaping from her small town and dreaming to make it big in LA, Ali (Christina Aguilera) stumbles upon The Burlesque Lounge, a musical revue that has seen better days. She manages to secure a job as cocktail waitress from Tess (Cher), the club’s proprietor, but aspires to perform on the club’s stage one day. Along the way, Ali garners the affection of Jack (Cam Gigandet), bartender at the club and a struggling musician, makes an enemy of Nikki (Kristen Bell), a star performer. She also has the help of Sean (Stanley Tucci), the keen-eyed and sharp-witted stage manager. Ali’s eventual success on the Burlesque stage restores the club back to its former glory, but financial woes still plagues the club and threatens to shut it down for good. 

Review: Burlesque is not a masterpiece by any measure, but that doesn’t mean it is not an entertaining movie – Christina Aguilera’s acting debut is unimpressive, but at least has a killer voice and a hot-enough body that is she uses to their full extent in the movie. She also wisely surrounds herself with capable actors and delectable eye candy, and it also helps the song and dance sequences are great fun to watch. And then, of course, there’s Cher, who finally returns to the big screen after a seven year hiatus. The 64-year-old veteran seems to be pumped full of botox,  but looks incredible for her age, plus she shows that both her acting chops and pipes are still in fine form. This may be Christina’s star vehicle but Cher roundly beats her in every department.

Steve Antin has aimed for a film that seems like a mix between Cabaret and Chicago, and although it isn’t quite there, Burlesque does score a number of triumphs. One of the more impressive moments of the show is Cher’s showstopping performance of a power ballad, unsurprisingly written by Diane Warren. And despite much focus on the Christina-Gigandet romance, the duo with the most chemistry is actually Cher and Stanley Tucci, who plays her gay BFF and their interaction serves up the best emotional scenes of the show. For audiences who prefer to focus on the aesthetics, Burlesque is also chock-full of beautiful people of both sexes, ranging from the gorgeous Kristen Bell to the sizzling hot Cam Gigandet.

That said, Burlesque’s plot is paper-thin with minimal characterization, and the decision to let the running time stretch to almost 2 hours actually hurts the film – there simply isn’t enough to sustain such length. In fact, there are probably some music videos out there that boast more plot than what Burlesque has on offer. Also, while the song and dance sequences are impressively staged, they are subject to way too many quick cuts and edits, which distracts from the action.

Despite the flaws, Burlesque remains far more watchable than other celebrity star vehicles like Glitter (Mariah) and Crossroads (Britney). The film doesn’t push any boundaries and is about as superficial a movie as can be, but like real life, sometimes it’s just fun to play in the shallow end of the pool. This is a bona fide guilty pleasure.  

Rating: * * * (out of four stars)

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