[FILM] Review: Burlesque
Released January 13
Burlesque is a form of performance art that mixes parody with adult entertainment. Saucy and fun, burlesque traditionally involves singing, mime, dancing and comedy, as well as striptease. Bearing this in mind, Burlesque is perhaps the most inappropriately titled film of recent times. Lacking humour and titillation, this musical bears more resemblance to a Pussy Cat Dolls music video than a Dita von Teese show.
Audiences expecting a cinema experience akin to Paul Verhoeven’s so-bad-it’s-good masterpiece Showgirls are going to be disappointed. Where Verhoeven went overboard on the kitsch, Burlesque’s writer/director Steven Antin (who, incidentally, is the brother of Pussy Cat Dolls’ creator, and has directed several PCD music videos) has pulled back completely on the ‘adult’ themes. The film’s M rating is probably unnecessary; under-15s will have seen more risqué content watching Video Hits on Saturday mornings as they tuck into their cornflakes.
Burlesque’s storyline sees smalltown waitress Ali (Christina Aguilera) head to the big smoke (LA) to make her dreams of becoming a singer a reality. There she comes across The Burlesque Lounge, owned by Tess (Cher). Enchanted by this strange and glamorous club and its staff and entertainers, Ali talks her way into a job as a cocktail waitress. Befriended by bartender and struggling musician Jack (Cam Gigandet), Ali is determined to make it on the stage.
Aguilera makes a perfectly adequate actress, but lacks the natural charisma needed to drive a film. Cher, as the ‘mentor’ figure, has a certain amount of charm – but not enough to sell the awful dialogue she’s been lumped with. Alan Cummings and Stanley Tucci phone-in their performances as club host and stage manager, and still prove to be the highlights of the film.
The real problem with this movie – aside from its tone and lack of burlesque content – is the ‘musical’ aspect. You can excuse a weak storyline (it’s almost expected in a film like this) but it is unforgiveable to have a completely forgettable soundtrack. The musical numbers, over-produced Bob Fosse knock-offs, are actually quite boring and leaving the cinema you’ll be hard-pressed to remember a single song.
What should have been a camp triumph of singing, dancing and suggestive humour has sadly been over-sanitized and completely dumbed down. It’s hard to see how Burlesque will possible please any of its intended audiences.