There are two types of bad films; the ones that think they are
creating something on a par with The Shawshank Redemption and instead
end up with more than a few Razzies and the ones that are fully aware of
their purpose to be crappy, guilty pleasures and revel in it. Happily
and obviously, Burlesque is the latter.
Leaving no cliché unturned, Ali (Aguilera) is a small town
girl with big dreams. After being stiffed by her low rent boss, she
takes the cash she’s owed and heads to the big city. But not without a
big number first! Before you have a chance to get comfortable in the
probably uncomfortable cinema seats, X-Tina is belting out a tune and
sticking to what she knows by wringing every damn note dry.
After that she heads to LA and quickly begins to try, and fail, to
get a singing job, she stumbles into a Burlesque club and is quickly
enamoured by the scantily clad performers on stage. It’s at this point
when we are introduced to Tess (Cher), the co-owner, head honcho
and part-time performer (the first sight of her is golden) of the club
who is battling her ex-husband and a long line of buyers.
and filled to the brim with optimism, Ali marches backstage and asks to
audition. When that leads to another dead end and she resigns herself
to becoming the waitress, she bides her time and studies every move of
every number until a spot opens up. Inevitably it does (hurray for
accidental pregnancies!) and she steals the show from previous leader of
the pack, the perennially drunk Nikki (Kristen Bell) and changes the entire fabric of what the previously club stood for.
There are other elements to the ropey story but if you’re looking for
a solid narrative that will have you hooked for the 2 hour running
time, forget about it. This is the trashy, silly, uber-camp film perfect
to watch in a group after too many drinks and re-watch alongside Showgirls and Coyote Ugly.
The numbers are largely forgettable but the choreography, slick editing that gives the illusion of nudity and Michael Kaplan’s astonishing work in the costume department are all highlights in this slight ode to everything from Chicago to Cabaret.
It was be a perfect guilty pleasure were it not for Aguilera’s
inability to turn her character into anything resembling human and a
distinct lack of Alan Cumming. It is too long and drags terribly in the
middle but is kept alive by Cher, Stanley Tucci and some
hilariously, ridiculous lines. It is impossible to not enjoy a film
where the standout moment features a drunk Kristen Bell and standing in a
parking lot and screaming “I will not be upstaged by some slut with
mutant lungs!” It is a kitsch masterpiece that Sex and the City 2 wishes it could’ve been.
Of course, it should be pointed out that apart from an ample amount
of sequins, feathers and pearls, this has absolutely nothing to do with
the art form of burlesque or its history. No, this is a paper thin film
linked together with enormous numbers and an obvious tongue in cheek.
It’s not a comedy but you’ll be laughing all the way through what has to
be one of the best and most fun cinematic experiences of 2010.