Cher returns to the big screen and Christina Aguilera makes her film debut in this holiday season’s musical extravaganza Burlesque. Here’s the breakdown:
Ali (Aguilera) is a small town girl looking to make it big in Los Angeles. Her dreams start to become reality when she begins working at the Burlesque Lounge, owned by veteran dancer/singer Tess (Cher).
The Monkey: Cher and Stanley Tucci were excellent. They played off each other incredibley well and brought humor, sass and reality to their roles that made them stand out. Cher reminds audiences why she has an Oscar; while her role as Tess is hardly award-worthy, she was consistent, believable and truly enjoyable to watch. She had just the right amount of attitude and vulnerability to be a watchable, three-dimensional character. Stanley Tucci was relegated, in most instances, to comic-relief duty, but his character Sean (stage manager of the lounge) acted as Tess’ sounding board – always there with words of wisdom and a funny quip. Alan Cumming played the doorman and was shamefully underutilized. I would have loved to see a movie focused on these more mature characters.
The songs written for the movie were catchy and the music throughout the film gave the lounge that underground, sexy, Parisian feel. Christina Aguilera certainly has some pipes on her (nothing new) and she uses them to the fullest extent throughout the movie. A particular standout moment for her occurs when she sings live after the dancers’ lip sync track is disconnected. She ramps up the vocals, ramps up the band and ramps up the crowd for one of the movie’s most rousing numbers.
The film ends with a stellar performance, both visually and vocally.
The Weasel: Aguilera is never quite able to make up for her lack of acting ability. Sure it’s a musical, so singing counts, but, even there, Burlesque falls short; instead of songs meant to mirror the drama, songs about events happening in the movie, most of the songs (80% sung by Aguilera) are nothing more than an excuse to show off her vocal prowess and parade a bunch of scantily clad women across a rather drab looking stage. And this could even have been forgiven, except for the fact that most of the numbers left much to be desired. Audiences have become increasingly used to extravagant dance and song numbers in movies and TV recently. Take Nine, Chicago, Moulin Rouge! and even Glee for example. Burlesque had the opportunity to wow audiences with crazy stage performances never seen on film; instead, it delivers lackluster performances that aren’t even worthy of an episode of Glee.
Aguilera’s acting ability is evenly matched by her co-star and onscreen love interest, Cam Gigandet. The movie knows exactly what he’s good for (his looks) and it takes every opportunity to remind the audience of that: putting him in pouring rain wearing a white shirt, having him shirtless most of the time, even throwing in an unnecessary (but decidedly steamy) striptease…I dare you to eat Famous Amos cookies the same way again.
Burlesque attempted to make Kristen Bell and Eric Dane the villians, but a bitchy dancer and rich real estate mogul (respectively) both failed to illict any emotion or connection to the rest of the story.
Aguilera was at her best when she was being snarky and cold to fellow dancer and rival, Nikki (Bell). This is a classic case of miscasting. Think of Mandy Moore: known for being the goody two-shoes, she wasn’t taken seriously until her amazing performance as villainess extraordinaire in 2004’s Saved!. If Aguilera was given the chance to break out of her mold, she might surprise audiences; as it is, she brings nothing to her Burlesque performance other than her vocals.
One last note: I’m surprised the filmmakers haven’t received a call from the makers of Coyote Ugly for copyright infringement. Burlesque is uncomfortably similar to the 2000 film starring Piper Perabo. Small town girl moves to the big city to make it big in the music industry/rents a crappy apartment/apartment gets broken into and all the money that was hidden away is stolen/girl works for feisty club owner/girl not given a shot until she proves her worth singing/girl gets nickname based on her hometown/girl dates guy who writes music/guy performs striptease….I could go on, but you get the picture…yikes.
Cher, Stanley Tucci and Alan Cumming should have made their own film about running an underground Burleqsue club. Instead, audiences are treated to an age-old story that doesn’t even bother trying to cover it up with decent song and dance numbers.
2.5 Death Stars out of 5
What do you think? Did you enjoy seeing Cher back on the big screen? Do you think Christina Aguilera has what it takes to become a movie star? Share your thoughts in the comments!