“Burlesque” is no “Cabaret,” or even “Chicago.” The film comes off more corny than campy as the director/writer (Steve Antin) uses the typical story line found in many stereotypical backstage musical films: a naïve girl from a small town (in this case, somewhere in Iowa) looking for fame and fortune.
Ali (Christina Aguilera) becomes a waitress at a cabaret in Tinsel Town hoping to make her big break becoming a cabaret entertainer. Forcing herself upon the emcee, Tess (Cher), with her “mutant lungs,” Aguilera becomes the cabaret entertainer she wanted to and belches out hard-hitting songs throughout the film. Sadly, that is not a good thing. Aguilera sings 80 percent of the numbers in the film and all of them show off her typical vocal prowess. Aguilera’s voice is not enough to save the film, although that seemed to be the goal of Antin, who hatched the idea to create Burlesque after watching Aguilera perform as a featured vocalist for The Pussycat Dolls in 2002, which appears to be a horrible reason to make a film in general. This may have been the reason Burlesque got off to a bad start, but there’s more to why it continued to be lackluster. Aguilera’s acting comes off as unnatural and forced as she quotes lines such as the constantly repeated, “that’s just the kind of friend I am.” On the other hand, it is no question that Cher is able to act, but she did not seem to go above and beyond in this film; possibly because Tess as a character did not require much skill for an actress to portray, which was once again by fault of Antin’s screenwriting.
One actor who is as wonderful as expected throughout the movie is Alan Cumming, who only has a few short appearances and one ballad, should have been the mistress of ceremonies instead of Cher, but instead became an underutilized actor with potential to make this film a lot better than it really is. Other actors such as Stanley Tucci (as Sean) and Eric Dane (as Marcus) live up to expectations as they do in every piece they star in.
As far as the musical side to this film, it is a bit top-heavy. The film has no slow songs, which are necessary to give this film a break from its powerful singers. The exclusion of these slow songs is considered to be an amateur mistake in musical film making. Many elements in the film are also questionable such as the reduction of raunchiness in order to achieve the film’s PG-13 rating. This is a horrible mistake in that the word “cabaret” alone should never be associated with the PG-13 rating. Viewers go into theaters expecting the movie to be made of sensual songs, scandal, and lingerie only to be stupefied with the childlike facsimiles of raunchy songs, unimpressive acting and cheesy lines.
Although nothing in “Burlesque” goes horribly wrong, it is dull and unoriginal. The soundtrack might be worth more for your money than the movie ticket or DVD, but that too is questionable.