Burlesque has a plot you could write on the corner of a napkin but what it lacks in depth and authenticity, it makes up for in spades with its musical numbers, dance routines and camp.
Ali (Christina Aguilera) fed up of her dead end job as a waitress in a small town in Iowa, packs her bags for LA to pursue her dreams as a singer. Shock of shocks, things aren’t as easy as she first assumes but when she stumbles into a local Burlesque club, she falls in love with the scene and after convincing irascible owner Tess (Cher) to take her on as a waitress, she sets her sights on the centre stage.
The plot’s a stitched together collage of movie clichés – small town girl achieves dreams, saves a struggling business and manages to nab a handsome but sensitive barman along the way while coolly deflecting the catty sideswipes of her rivals. In terms of originality or even plausibility it’s like the mutant offspring of Showgirls,Coyote Ugly and Cabaret.
There are frequent scenes of unintentional hilarity – Ali breaking out into song in an empty café, Cher giving Ali make up tips whilst simultaneously painting her like a blow-up doll, and Cher’s big solo number preceded with the line “let’s get this over with” will all elicit inadvertent titters. But then, these plot contrivances are so campy that it’s possible to enjoy it completely ironically.
Aguilera’s acting is actually passable – singers historically haven’t always fared well on the silver screen (Glitter anyone?) but she manages to pull off her performance without any significant hitches and the camp factor covers any notable chunkiness. But predictably it’s the singing which really takes centre stage. The songs are well crafted and catchy and do an admirable job of showcasing her prodigious voice, even if they have less to do with Burlesque and more to do with Christina’s last album. Essentially the plot is just window dressing to the singing and dancing but that’s a theme common to any musical.
There are moments of genuine humour, mostly from Stanley Tucci, who as usual quietly steals every scene he’s in as the camp head of wardrobe backstage. Elsewhere, there’s enough eye candy for most punters to be satisfied: Aguilera looks stunning, Cam Gigandet is his usual ubiquitously hunky self and a brunette Kristen Bell gets the best line of the movie, “I’m not going to be upstaged by some slut with mutant lungs!”
As it stands, it’s not going to completely satisfy any audience – fans of musicals are going to be disappointed by the lack of variety in the song writing (there might be some real belters but it’s hard to call any of them particularly memorable) and everyone else will be bored by the script’s lack of tension and the glossy but dull production values.
The film lacks a convincing villain – property developer Marcus (Eric Dane) isn’t really a threat and the movie bafflingly hinges upon the a loophole in the city’s legislation but then the plot makes very little sense anyway (anyone with an ounce of business acumen could tell Cher that she could end her monetary woes by halving her staff compliment).
Burlesque is for the most part campy fun, best enjoyed with tongue planted firmly in a heavily made up cheek.