Review in a Hurry: The singing and dancing come easy to Christina Aguilera. But being a passable actress? Not so much. Cher makes for a good mentor in this by-the-book tale of makin' it in the big city, but she's barely onscreen.
Bland Burlesque isn't even awful enough to qualify as a so-bad-it's-good guilty pleasure. Oh well.
The Bigger Picture: In this misfire from first-time writer-director Steve Antin, naive Ali (Aguilera) leaves her Iowa hometown to make it as a star in Hollywood. To her dismay, Tess, the owner of the struggling burlesque night club where she finds a job (OMG, played by Cher!), won't give her a chance to strut her stuff.
Tess has bigger problems. She's behind on mortgage payments, and her ex (Peter Gallagher) wants to sell the place. Worse still, the club's resident diva Nikki (Kristen Bell) has become more of a boozy, loud-mouth hindrance than a star.
Oh, but Ali has an ace in the hole. While the other dancers only lip sync, Ali has pipes like a pop star! But are they enough to save the club?! Does it matter?
Pretty much all the set pieces with Aguilera headlining are sexy-cool. The costumes by famed designer Michael Kaplan tease every inch of her curvy body, and fans of the singer will be pleased.
Cher is Cher, and that's a good thing. She's been away from the movies for more than a decade, and even with this shallow role, she finds ways to inject humor—particularly playing off Stanley Tucci.
With two big stars like Aguilera and Cher, there shouldn't be anything wrong with Burlesque being yet another story of fame and fortune in the world of
strippers dancers. But so many things fall so flat, it's hard to forgive.
Antin, who's made many music videos for The Pussycat Dolls, knows how to orchestrate big numbers. Sadly, the film lumbers forward in frantically edited five minutes sequences, never building to anything compelling or seductive. The dancers are sexy, but the motives of everyone are strictly of the PG "I just need to keep trying my best!" variety.
Worse, the offstage dancer banter is painful, and it's clear Aguilera can't connect with her costars. We can understand why—she has become a pop idol by performing for audiences, not interacting with them. Put that same attitude in a scene, even a fairly straightforward one with her flirting with roommate/love interest (Cam Gigandet—Twilight alert!), and nothing resembling chemistry registers.
Aguilera is miles ahead of the cold, energy-sucking screen presence that has always plagued Madonna, but it's not enough. Overall, Burlesque ends up more Coyote Ugly bland than Showgirls trash. Too bad.
The 180—a Second Opinion: If you're a fan of Cher and/or Christina, it doesn't matter that the movie isn't any good. For you, we say, go forth. Christina has a few show stoppers, and Cher has one short but effective solo. Just don't expect to hum these tunes as you leave the theater.