Cher and Christina deliver a bawdy, gaudy good time
Published: November 24, 2010
Directed by Steve Antin
Opens Nov. 24
Cher can’t move her upper lip. Kristen Bell can’t move her hips. And Christina Aguilera couldn’t fake cry herself out of a traffic ticket issued a by Glee-loving gay man. But the lights are so dim in writer/director Steve Antin’s Burlesque, the music so “Ain’t No Other Man” and “Lady Marmalade” (unless it’s sung by Cher, then it sounds a little “Gypsy, Tramps, and Thieves”), the costumes are Pussycat Dolls meets old-school Vegas showgirl, and the boys all have eyeliner—unless they don’t, and who cares? It’s Burlesque! The best view on the Sunset Strip is where you don’t question anything, look too close, or try and have it all—because, honey, that’s what makeup, push-ups, and frantic edits are for. It’s Burlesque! It’s a drinky Sapphic bump-and-grind in gorgeous costumes and the soundtrack is going to sell like Louboutins to the skinny rich.
Sing it: Ali (Aguilera) is just a small-town girl, born and raised in I-o-wa, who took an afternoon bus heading one-way to L.A. Her mom died shortly after her seventh birthday, and now she has no friends and no family, natch, but catch the voice on this heavily blond-banged girl. You can’t miss it, because five minutes in she’s singing Etta James’ “Something’s Got a Hold on Me.” Real quick: It doesn’t matter much, but Aguilera is a bit zaftig during this number when compared to how she appears in the rest of the movie, where she looks to be in touring shape, so either this unnecessary scene was shot before or after the meat, and it totally breaks the fantasy. Also: We know Aguilera can fucking sing. But, you know, it’s Burlesque!
Trolling the mean L.A. streets hitting audition after audition, Ali spies a dancer in costume outside of the club Burlesque, wanders in, pays Alexis (the androgynously fabulous Alan Cummings) $20 for the door, and sets her sights on the old-fashioned song and dance room with the history of scantily clad ladies framed on the walls, large wooden bar backed by mirrors, tables of couples drinking, and a stage full of dancers singing a song about—wait for it—burlesque!
Ali befriends the adorable A Clockwork Orange bowler-adorned bartender Jack (Cam Gigandet), who plays keyboard and, yes, writes music, because he has a dream too, and a day later she’s slinging drinks, imitating the dance moves, and angering the proprietor Tess (the freaking stunning Cher as seen through a heavily filtered lens), who didn’t hire her. Give the poor girl a chance to burlesque, Tess! Stage manager, costumer, sassy-girls-in-sparkles-wrangler, and Tess’ gay boyfriend Sean (the sweet and sexy Stanley Tucci) sees the fire in Ali—she’s just like you were Tess! The short-Sean-and-tall-Tess playful pair offers a unified front in the back of the club, tough-mothering the super shortiepants-wearing ladies in the dressing room and enjoying the show while worrying about money. The club is going under, and even Tess’ ex-husband and Burlesque half-owner (the sweaty Peter Gallagher, rowr) can’t fix it.
Ali obviously blows the shit away once she gets a chance to audition to the difficult “Wagon Wheel Watusi” after the best dancer in the movie Georgia (professional kicker Julianne Hough) gets knocked up and off the stage. But all the numbers are lip-synced so, yeah, wait for that big reveal.
Competitive hot-ass headliner Nikki (Kristen Bell, gorgeous as a brunette) is a drunk with the best lines: “It’s a bad angle” she says looking at a front-page photo of “mutant lungs” Ali working it. Meanwhile, Marcus (Eric Dane), a real estate developer who’d like to buy the club and renovate Ali’s interiors (if you know what we mean), is the rich slime-ball bad guy who always uses the same lines but somehow makes women feel special every time he says them. Side characters aside, this fancy, pretty, favorite musical of the year is filled with hot dance numbers—Cher singing “Welcome to Burlesque” as the girls writhe around her statuesque, almost unmoving figure; Aguilera bouncing and popping in pink to “But I Am a Good Girl;” and the thoroughly Xtina “Express”—mixed with a couple of ballads that drag the drama (not that there’s much of that) down. But seeing Cher in black suede over-the-knee boots, black tunic, and low-slung rhinestone belt with blindingly huge oval belt buckle is totally worth her aptly named song “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me.” Amen Cherilyn Sarkisian, you Goddess of Pop.
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