Ali is a small-town girl with a big voice who escapes hardship and an uncertain future to follow her dreams to LA. After stumbling upon The Burlesque Lounge, a majestic but ailing theater that is home to an inspired musical revue, Ali lands a job as a cocktail waitress. Burlesque's outrageous costumes and bold choreography enrapture the young ingenue, who vows to perform there one day. Soon enough, Ali makes her way from the bar to the stage. Her spectacular voice restores The Burlesque Lounge to its former glory, although not before a charismatic entrepreneur arrives with an enticing proposal.
"Burlesque" is the "Spice World" of 1997.
OK. Maybe that's going too far. Maybe it's more "Coyote Ugly" - and we all know what a dent that made in the film world.
In theory, "Burlesque" works. A small town girl, Ali (Christina Aguilera), goes to Los Angeles and makes it big in the sexy world of burlesque, dazzling the crowds with her voice, falling in love along the way.
Trouble is, no one goes to burlesque shows for a plot.
Truth is, if you're looking for real burlesque, you won't find much of it in this film. The appeal of burlesque is that it precisely is not PG-13, which this film is rated. Racier costumes and dancing can surely be found in community theater.
Cher also co-stars in her directorial debut, which brings up the question, is the dancing sexy enough to make her performance enjoyable enough to appeal to mass audiences?
Her monologue is frankly boring and her solo number, with very limited stage movement, is lackluster.
Throughout "Burlesque," the laughs are weak and the pseudo-lesbian chemistry is forced and awkward. A lack of locations and overuse of Steadicam leaves the audience bored, while faux cast drama falls short of capturing their attention.
Bubblegum pop singer Christina Aguilera surprisingly handles her first major motion picture role quite well. She's sweet when need be and fiery when given the chance. Her voice is really the star of the production, and it's showcased quite well. Given that "Burlesque" is truly a musical, however, the film would've been better served by letting her sing much more often.
One of the brighter points of "Burlesque" is her love story with Jack (Cam Gigandet), which is actually quite endearing. Fans of "Grey's Anatomy" will be happy to find that Eric Dane is cast as a rival love interest, but it's hard to find someone so handsome can be the bad guy.
"Dancing with the Stars" fans will find that Julianne Hough plays a limited background in the film and gets lost in the sequins and lights.
One of the highlights of "Burlesque" is Alan Cummings. One of his early appearances in the film is nearly a direct reference to his Tony-winning role in "Cabaret." His character is one of the few that are believable, and mostly, enjoyable.
In truth, at almost two hours, "Burlesque" is about an hour-and-a-half too long. It'd make a great short film or extended music video. As a wide-release feature film, it falls short and does a disservice to the real world of burlesque.
It's a good movie, but an NC-17, or at least R-rating could've made "Burlesque" a classic. If Cher was looking to make a great musical based on the concept of burlesque, it could've used about 10 more songs that actually showcase the cast.
Given the concept and cast, "Burlesque" truly could have become a classic. Unfortunately, this film falls short.