Burlesque is a PG-13 movie about a burlesque club. That probably should have the first warning sign. It was designed as a debut vehicle for the diva that is Christina Aguilera. That brought back memories of Mariah Carey's Glitter which should’ve been the other warning sign. Nevertheless, the cast (which includes Stanley Tucci, Cher, Eric Dane, Alan Cumming and Kristin Bell) and the colourful and slick production work did give some hope. Alas, it was for little, if not nothing. Burlesque is light years away from being as good as a Cabaret or Chicago and just a few miles short from being regarded as so-bad-its-good. It sits uncomfortably somewhere in between.
Burlesque is the story of Iowan cowgirl Alice a.k.a. Ali (Christina Aguillera) who leaves the small town gig for the dazzling tinsel town setting of Los Angeles. With starry eyed hopes of being a singer, she looks in vain for gigs around town till she stumbles upon a club named “Burlesque” run by the vivacious and passionate Tess (Cher). As she grows from a waitress to a performer, there is the usual dose of jealousy, sabotage, romance with even a we’re-losing-the-club subplot thrown in with several attagirl Ali moments throughout.
There are two important rules of any cabaret musical and Burlesque breaks both of them. First, the music must be foot-tapping and memorable. Despite the fact that Aguilera’s mutant lungs are put to good use, the tunes are largely mediocre and instantly forgettable. Apart from the title track and “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me”, the remaining songs are mostly indistinguishable from each other. Secondly, a burlesque/cabaret act (even in a PG-13 movie) must be tantalising, bold and an absolute tease. Think of the Cell Block Tango in Chicago and you will know what I mean. However, the acts in Burlesque are mundane, boring even where the only attempt to push the PG-13 rating is in the costumes, which are as minimalist as they come. Although the staging of the individual numbers is pretty impressive, they are again similar to each other and lost their appeal fairly quickly. There is little sizzle and even lesser life in the acts themselves. Worse still, the script is banal, devoid of wit and riddled with cringe-inducing dialogues which don't help things at all.
The only saving grace of the film is the camaraderie between Tess and Ali on the one hand and Tess and Sean on the other. In their respective roles, both Cher and Christina Aguilera are better than expected and share a great rapport and comfort level. Stanley Tucci, as usual, is so effortlessly endearing that his moments with Cher soar. Kristin Bell’s bitch act is routine and Cam Gigandet’s bartender sum aspiring musician role is just painful to watch. Eric Dane's ruthless builder act, though charming, is overtly familiar and hence, exceedingly dull.
Burlesque has the heart of a campy, silly B-grade chick flick but the look and ambitions of an A-list Hollywood film. Ultimately, it fails rather spectacularly at both and is certainly not worth the money or the time.