Directed by: Steve Antin
Premise: A small town waitress (Christina Aguilera) moves to Los Angeles and takes a job at a failing night club, hoping to become the star of the show.
What Works: Burlesque aims to entertain and in that goal it does not fail. The film is certainly not boring and keeps tossing musical numbers and beautiful women at the audience at a steady pace. Stanley Tucci is on hand as the stage manager, cast as essentially the same character he played in The Devil Wears Prada, and he offers up some sorely needed wit.
What Doesn’t: Burlesque is a bit like its main character: so determined to win over its audience it will bust its own pipes in the process. And while there is a little to admire in its determination there is also a lot that is obnoxious. Cast as the lead, Christina Aguilera has no acting talent to speak of, or at least no more than would be called for in a music video, and so Aguilera compensates by pouring on the earnestness and bludgeoning the audience’s ears with her obtuse signature vocal sound. That same quality is shared with the rest of the film, both in a love story that is full of cornball dialogue intended to be dramatic and musical performances that use rapid cuts instead of effective staging. But what is odd about Burlesque is that very little of it is new. The plot is a tapestry of scenes from other movies such as Coyote Ugly, Moulin Rouge! and Chicago. The musical numbers also copy off of these films and are very uninspired in their choreography or cinematography. The dubbing in the musical sequences is particularly poor and noticeably out of synch with the actors. The narrative is equally sloppy. The financial troubles of the night club are resolved in silly nonsensical way and the love story is passionless as the leading lady and her love interest fall for each other for no particular reason.
Bottom Line: Burlesque is awful but it is awful in a Staying Alive or Xanadu sort of way. This film may not sink to the obscurity of From Justin to Kelly or even the infamy of Glitter if it finds an audience that will embrace its silliness.
Episode: #319 (December 19, 2010)