114. Burlesque (2011)

Let’s just stick to the singing career

Directed by: Steve Antin
Written by: Steve Antin
Starring: Cher, Christina Aguilera and Alan Cumming

At least Tucci and Cher are having fun...

If Burlesque is compared to the musical movie greats, such as Cabaret and Chicago, it stumbles across the stage like something out of Coyote Ugly disguised under a wig. With a tacky and predictable story line, flat characters and cheesy lines, Burlesque is unbearable to watch when the characters come offstage into the real world of L.A. Onstage, Christina Aguilera, the musical numbers and the creative room for visual direction finds its place, and it is only for these stage moments that the film shines.

Ally (Aguilera) is a country girl with big dreams (it gets cheesier). After moving to L.A, Ally sets her sights on a burlesque club where her singing and dancing talents could thrive. All she needs to do is impress the club owner, Tess (Cher), and leading performer, Nikki (Bell).

Aguilera’s talent onstage as a musical performer is never compromised in Burlesque. But considering she has been a singer since her ‘Genie in a Bottle’ days, it’s not surprising that the film suddenly lights up when Aguilera opens her mouth and belts out some powerful tunes. When it comes to acting, however, her presence on screen drains out of an excruciatingly annoying character whose goody-two-shoes sass does not come off as likeable. Cher, on the other hand, balances her acting and her onstage performance with equal measure. And let’s face it, it’s Cher.

Burlesque offers little in terms of original direction, story construction or characterization compared to other musicals. And while the musical numbers of Burlesque are relatively energetic and fun to watch, and this could arguably be the core of a musical film, I would argue that there are plenty of other film adaptations of stage musicals that somehow manage to highlight the power of film techniques in order to give us something new and exciting to watch. In that sense, Burlesque is like watching a performer sing with confidence, simply in the wrong key.


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