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A popcorn-scratch that, kettle corn-movie
on December 1, 2010
`Burlesque,' the gazillion-and-sixth movie memoir of a small-town girl making it big, was expectedly lampooned by most critics upon arrival. Although several of the complaints are perfectly valid, `Burlesque' is no `Glitter.' It is in many ways a very on-the-surface visual spectacle, however, and must be treated as such throughout most of its runtime in order for enjoyment as a viewer to be possible.
It is somewhat shocking that this is the movie Cher returned to the big screen for after seven years, and that this is what serves as Christina Aguilera's film debut. The story is more or less total trite, fitting snugly into the mold of the long, haggard slew of identical concepts that came before it. Christina plays Ali, a waitress from Middle-`o-Nowhere USA with her sights set on the spotlight. Somehow scrounging together the cash for a one-way ticket to LA, she happens to come across the vivacious Burlesque Lounge, and naturally lands herself a job there along with a den mother (owner of the club, Tess, played by Cher) to guide the way.
There's of course also a love interest (bartender Jack, played by Cam Gigandet), who conveniently offers Ali a place to stay after her apartment is robbed, despite the existence of an out-of-town fiancée. The premise doesn't go too far beyond that; there are the usual ethical dilemmas and opportunities to sell the soul in favor of showbiz, presented in the form of Eric Dane as weaselly businessman Marcus. Kristen Bell is mostly wasted as a one-note bitchy alcoholic rival to Ali, but Stanley Tucci musters up a few vaguely witty one-liners as Tess's stage manager and gay best friend Sean.
Although the movie is heavy on the obvious, it does have some notable charms; Cher brings impressive layers of tenderness and vulnerability to her portrayal of Tess, while Xtina gives the impression she'd certainly be capable of meatier roles in the future. Cam Gigandet hasn't had much screen time in previous roles, but here we see a little more of what he can do; although he isn't given much to work with beyond the usual pretty boy waif routine, he shares a genuinely sexy, intimate scene with Christina's Ali involving some playful drunken banter and a strategically placed box of cookies.
The mega-instrument that is Christina Aguilera's voice is another major factor of the film's appeal; she's a phenomenal performer, and although a few of the numbers verge on typical musical schlock, a good handful of them (including "The Beautiful People," a biting, hard-edged pop number sampling Marilyn Manson's hit of the same name, as well as "Bound To You," a smoky ballad) are delectable ear candy. Cher's vocals are also in top form in her soaring opening number "Welcome To Burlesque," and although she unfortunately only gets one other song, she shows she's still got it and then some.
Ultimately `Burlesque's biggest asset lies in its weighty guilty pleasure factor. Avid fans of Cher and Christina will probably eat it up, and there's plenty of beautiful faces, bodies, vocals and dance routines to keep things visually enticing. Likeable characters can also make or break a movie despite its script, and luckily Cher's Tess, Tucci's Sean, and a few others are charming enough to keep the audience rooting for them. If you're in the mood for a sugary confection, `Burlesque' could definitely be the way to go-just don't expect anything more filling than that.