Review of Burlesque
Saturday, December 4, 2010 • 12:28pm
Burlesque is neither innovative nor profound, but the filmmakers never pretend it is. The movie’s charm is that it’s an unabashedly old-fashioned musical, albeit with a little raunch to give it a PG-13 rating. Pop star Christina Aguilera makes a promising film debut while Cher, now in her sixties, still sizzles despite some obvious cosmetic surgery.
Stating that director Steve Antin’s scenario is hackneyed is like stating that a toy poodle is small; it’s been trotted out in countless films and shows for countless years. A girl named Ali from a small town (Aguilera) travels to the big city (in this case, Los Angeles) to break into show business. She gets a job as a cocktail waitress in a nightclub. At an audition, she wins a spot in the chorus. It isn’t long before she becomes the nightclub’s star attraction. But the nightclub is in trouble. If the world weary owner, Tess (Cher), can’t pay her debts soon, the creditors will take the club away from her. I doubt I’d be spoiling anything if I gave away Burlesque’s completely predictable outcome.
But if Burlesque lacks any genuine conflict, it is still gorgeous to look at, particularly the musical numbers. As director, Antin adroitly spotlights his scantily clad performers, imbuing them with glamour and sex appeal. He is particularly impressive in presenting one of Cher’s numbers, “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me.” Focusing only on the singer with teal lighting, he gives her declarative song the appropriate visual immediacy, without any distracting gimmicks.
But Antin’s handling of the musical numbers is not completely flawless. He fragments the performers into brief shots of gestures, instead of displaying full body movements, so one cannot fully appreciate their dancing talents. Nevertheless, this liability does not detract from one’s enjoyment of these spectacles. A bigger problem is the story; it not only drags (Burlesque is at least thirty minutes too long!), but it’s often treated as mere filler between the song and dance sequences. Fortunately, good performances make the plot segments more bearable. Kristen Bell is especially fun as the tempermental diva Nikki who resents Ali’s rise; she invests her cliched vixen role with humor and flair.
Christina Aguilera’s singing is robust and lively, even though it seems more suited for pop music than for showtunes. Her acting may not be of the caliber of Meryl Streep, but she wins the audience over with sweetness and vivacity. It’s hard not to ignore how immobile Cher’s upper lip is, but she’s otherwise impressive in both dramatics and in singing. She is one star who, on the whole, seems to be aging gracefully.
Burlesque is entertaining fluff that adequately showcases Aguilera and Cher. Here’s hoping that Aguilera goes on to bigger and better films and that Cher will not wind up a pathetic self-parody. Now playing at Clearview’s Beacon Hill 5 in Summit, Clearview’s Madison Cinema in Madison, the Rialto Theatre in Westfield and Fabian 8 in Paterson, it is rated PG-13 for sexual content including several suggestive dance routines, partial nudity, language and some thematic material.
Raymond Valinoti, Jr. is a resident of Berkeley Heights, NJ. He has a Master’s in Library Science from Rutgers University and is a freelance researcher. His articles on film have been published in the magazines Midnight Marquee and Films of the Golden Age. His biography on the comedy team of Laurel and Hardy has recently been published by Bear Manor Media. He can be reached by email at email@example.com, through Twitter at http://twitter.com/rayvalinoti, and through Facebook at Raymond Valinoti
Raymond Valinoti, Jr. is a librarian, freelance writer and researcher. He writes movie reviews for TheAlternativePress.com
The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TheAlternativePress.com or anyone who works for TheAlternativePress.com. TheAlternativePress.com is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.