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An upcoming American contemporary musical film directed and written by Steve Antin starring Christina Aguilera and Cher.

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A Film That Steals a Few Too Many Acts

  • Nov 29, 2010
"Burlesque" is a visually splendid musical brought down by a severe lack of originality. There isn't a plot point, a character, a theme, a dance routine, or even a song style that hasn't already been seen and heard in other musicals. Take, for example, the moment Christina Aguilera enters the titular club; on stage, a troupe of scantily-clad young women dance lewdly around Cher as she welcomes the audience with a song. She sings about the club. She sings about the girls. She points to the orchestra, which play right on the stage. Watching this, I thought of how good this scene could have been if it hadn't already been done in "Cabaret." It also seems as if the music and lyrics are a little too reminiscent of Kander and Ebb. Even the choreography feels like Joey Pizzi and Denise Faye peeked into the teacher's edition of a Bob Fosse dancing textbook.

Aguilera plays Ali, a waitress from a middle-of-nowhere town who dreams of hitting it big as a singer and dancer. Determined to make something of herself, she buys a one-way bus ticket to Los Angeles. While job hunting in Hollywood, she happens upon The Burlesque Lounge, a glamorously lascivious nightclub run by the headliner, Tess (Cher). Although tough, Tess takes Ali under her wing; at the same time, Ali makes an enemy out of a temperamental and boozy performer named Nikki (Kristen Bell). Ali quickly lands a job as a cocktail waitress, and after a lot of coaxing and begging (aided by the convenient sudden pregnancy of one of the showgirls), she gets to take part in the show, which, at Tess' insistence, consists of dancers lip synching to previously recorded songs. But when Nikki stops the music in a fit of jealousy, Ali lets loose a set of pipes the likes of which no one at The Burlesque Lounge - Tess least of all - has ever heard.

Intertwined with this is a subplot involving the failing financial state of the club, pitting Tess against her ex-husband, Vince (Peter Gallagher), whose sweaty skin, matted hair, and ruffled clothes give him the appearance of a man who hasn't slept in at least three days. We also focus on a budding romance between Ali and a Burlesque bartender named Jack (Cam Gigandet), the latter offering his apartment as a safe haven after Ali's place is robbed. They spend most of the first and second act playing coy with one another, until that fateful moment when Jack walks past Ali wearing nothing - although he does strategically cover himself with an open box of cookies. Their love is quickly threatened by the arrival of Marcus Gerber (Eric Dane), a suave, magnetic entrepreneur eager to tempt Ali with promises of becoming a star. He also has his eye on The Burlesque Lounge, primarily because that's what's expected of guys like him in movie musicals like this.

All the songs come to life within the context of the stage, each displaying a dreamy showbiz glitziness similar to the fantasy sequences in Rob Marshall's "Chicago." It's great to look at, and yet it forces a certain degree of detachment, since, even within the scope of Hollywood outrageousness, it seems unlikely that such a club could ever exist there. Apart from that, no real effort is made to show us something we haven't already seen before. Even Cher's solo number is overwhelmingly contrived. Imagine it. It's after hours. Everyone has gone home. She steps on stage and insists on rehearsing. She then sits on a lone chair, bathed in the glow of a spotlight while a power ballad crescendos to life. And yes, the prerecorded song on the CD just happens to accurately reflect her emotional state at that very moment. The song is called "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me," and it was written by Diane Warren, known for ballads such as "Un-Break My Heart," "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," and "There You'll Be."

I will give both the leads credit. I don't need to say a lot about Cher; she has already established herself as an actress, and she has the Oscar to prove it. As for Aguilera, she marks her feature film debut with a decent, believable, entertaining performance - decent enough, in my opinion, to warrant opportunities for future film roles. And there's no denying her soulful, resonant singing voice, one of the few decent ones belonging to an ex-Mouseketeer. Unfortunately, all the singing in the world can't save a musical if there isn't an engaging story, well developed characters, and some sense that the filmmakers are trying something new. "Burlesque," while certainly pleasant on the eyes, is flat, uninspired, and lifeless.

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December 02, 2010
Aw man, I was looking forward to this- well, I still might catch a matinee and I'll go in knowing not to expect much. Thanks for the warning!
December 01, 2010
Ugh, poor Christina, and what was Cher thinking? Thanks for the heads up on this, Chris!
November 30, 2010
This may not be for me, I am really not much for musicals. I was told that if I wanted to see films superior to this one, I should check out CHICAGO and MOULIN ROUGE. I'll give those a rent first methinks. Great review anyhow, Chris! Thank you very much!
December 01, 2010
Add to that list "Cabaret," "The Phantom of the Opera," and "Little Shop of Horrors," and you'll be all set.
December 02, 2010
And Fiddler on the Roof...it's one of my faves! But, yes Chicago rocks.
November 29, 2010
I saw this last night and just had a gut feeling that it was going to be terrible. Lo and behold, I was right. But I do agree that it was very easy on the eyes, especially Cam Gigandet...*drools*...Though I was surprised the two never did a duet together. Anyway, I'm just glad the film ended when it did; I don't think I could've stomached any more horrible writing and embarrassing cliches. Great review!
More Burlesque reviews
review by . November 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The Flattest Burlesque I've Ever Seen
BURLESQUE   Written and Directed by Steve Antin   Starring Christina Aguilera, Cher, Kristen Bell, Cam Gigandet and Stanley Tucci       Ali: I’ve got to get out of this town.       We open on a street so sparse, in a town so small, one expects tumbleweeds to float by the diner where two young ladies are wasting their lives away as waitresses.  Pop princess/diva/star, Christina Aguilera, is sitting on the counter top, …
Quick Tip by . November 28, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I don't know how to rate it yet but, I'm looking forward to catching it in theaters. For now, it'll have to be a hopeful 5. I love Cher, I love Christina Aguilera (real Christina, even Xtina but, not Bionic Christina!) and really, I'm a sucker for dance movies of any kind.
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie


Ali (Christina Aguilera) is a small-town girl with a big voice who escapes hardship and an uncertain future to follow her dreams to Los Angeles. After stumbling upon The Burlesque Lounge, a majestic but ailing theater that is home to an inspired musical revue, Ali lands a job as a cocktail waitress from Tess (Cher), the club’s proprietor and headliner. Burlesque’s outrageous costumes and bold choreography enrapture the young ingenue, who vows to perform there one day.

Soon enough, Ali builds a friendship with a featured dancer named Georgia (Julianne Hough), finds an enemy in a troubled, jealous performer named Nikki (Kristen Bell), and garners the affection of a bartender and fellow musician Jack (Cam Gigandet). With the help of a sharp-witted stage manager (Stanley Tucci) and gender-bending host named Alexis (Alan Cumming), Ali makes her way from the bar to the stage. Her spectacular voice restores The Burlesque Lounge to its former glory, though not before a charismatic entrepreneur Marcus Gerber (Eric Dane) arrives with an enticing proposal.

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Director: Steve Antin
Genre: Music, Musical
Release Date: 24 November 2010 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Steve Antin
Studio: De Line Pictures
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