When Hollywood does song and dance movies poorly you get something like Glitter. When Hollywood does it right you get something like Flashdance and Footloose. Hollywood’s latest is Burlesque. Equal parts Chicago and a Pussycat Dolls show, Burlesque reminds us that T&A doesn’t have to be shown to be sexy.
Burlesque‘s story is a bit Showgirls-esque. Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world (hey that’s Journey, that is Journey), she took the mid-day bus going to Hollywood (ok that’s just Welcome to the Jungle). But where Showgirls is Razzie-tastic, Burlesque has great performances from its stars and supporting cast.
Christina Aguilera stars as Ali, an Iowa farm girl with no family and big dreams of making it. She heads west to become a performer and soon finds out they don’t just give you a Grammy or a job when you step off the bus. After walking the streets of Los Angeles, she sees a girl standing on the stairs of a club. She walks in to see what’s going on and is greeted by Alan Cumming, who won’t let her in without the $20 cover charge. She hesitantly gives away one of her last $20 bills, but soon is amazed at what she sees in front of her. She is in club Burlesque. With scantily clad women dancing on stage to music, Ali knows she’s found her calling. When bartender Jack (played by Twilight‘s Cam Gigandet) asks for her order and she only orders water, Jack knows Miss Iowa is new and tries to get her a job at the club. She weasels her way into a waitress job even though she longs for the stage.
When one of the dancers becomes pregnant, there are auditions for her replacement. Ali walks in on the auditions and forces Tess (Cher), the club owner, and Sean (Stanley Tucci), the stage manager and Tess’s gay BFF, to watch her prove herself. She gets the job as a backup dancer. When rival lead dancer Nikki (Kristen Bell) pulls the audio during her performance, Ali sings and a star is born. The club becomes the place to be and Ali the ”It” girl who saves it from closing.
Christina Aguilera has been a pop star for so long and her performance is so good that you forget that this is her first major acting job. Either she wasn’t interested in acting or she waited for the perfect movie, but the former singer will easily get more offers for film work. The petite powerhouse gives quite a surprise performance and was a major force in the film’s music.
When you think of one word celebrities, you think Madonna, Bono, Bieber. But Cher created it. Love her or hate her, Cher is an icon. She has been in the game for decades, plural. She leaves for a few years and makes a comeback. Some of her tattoos are probably older than some of her co-stars, but Cher is back on top. If Tess wasn’t specifically written for Cher, it should have been. Tess is quite similar to Gemma from Sons of Anarchy, a strong independent woman, but also motherly to the ones she loves. Ever the performer, Cher busts out a song and dance routine women a quarter of her age couldn’t do.
But Burlesque also has fantastic supporting roles. Stanley Tucci might steal the movie. He’s quick witted and the shoulder for Tess to cry on. He should easily get a Golden Globe nom for supporting act. Peter Gallagher plays Tess’ ex-husband and club manager. Grey’s Anatomy’s McSteamy (Eric Dane) plays a rich, business man who wants to buy the club and the heart of Ali. Dancing with the Star’s Julianne Hough plays a fellow dancer and the already mentioned Kristen Bell (who needs a hit badly), Alan Cumming and Cam Gigandet play their roles respectively.
With the High School Musical generation aging into a Glee generation, Burlesque will be a hit. Surprisingly entertaining, Burlesque should find packed theatres on opening weekend and high CD sales.
Burlesque was released on November 24th, 2010
Ken Murray also reviews for The Boston Movie Examiner, check out his reviews here.