Oh, let’s be completely honest. Burlesque is awful. The script is horrendous. The acting is dismal. The musical numbers are glitzy and glittery, but even all the half-naked women on stage can’t make this film particularly thrilling. There are moments when it’s “so bad it’s good,” but also moments when it’s the more common “bad.”
Ali (Christina Aguilera), a small town girl, moves to LA to pursue her dreams of becoming a star. She somehow manages to score a spot on stage, performing at a burlesque club owned and operated by the formidable Tess (Cher), and so begins Ali’s rise to Sunset Boulevard celebrity. Along the way she must face backstage rivalry from the bitchy Nikki (Kristen Bell), fight off the attentions of entrepreneur Marcus (Eric Dane, Grey’s Anatomy), and follow her burgeoning romance with new best friend Jack (Cam Gagandet, Twilight).
Whatever Cher’s doing on screen here – an obvious attempt at career revival, perhaps? – it certainly isn’t convincing. Nobody likes to mention the pink elephant/plastic surgery in the room, but Cher’s features are so botoxed as to be basically immobile. Watching her sing is a bizarre experience, as it seems impossible that such a big voice could be coming out of such thinly parted lips. Christina Aguilera also can’t act, but that has nothing to do with her face. Just her level of talent.
It’s films like Burlesque that make one wonder how so many people – producers, directors, actors – could have read the script and yet not pointed out how alarmingly trite it is. One doesn’t expect originality from a celebrity-vehicle like this, but aside from the utter predictability of the plot, there are so many failed attempts at comedy (it’s heartbreaking, really) and romance (which are, conversely, comedic) that it all just becomes a bit awkward for the audience.
The word ‘burlesque’ can denote a variety show that includes striptease, and this film is certainly flashes a lot of flesh. But the word can also mean to mock something serious, by inappropriately imitating it. This film lacks any sense of self-awareness, or satire. The real problem with Burlesque isn’t that it’s bad – it’s that it doesn’t understand how bad it is, and doesn’t play up to the camp-ness or crap-ness.
Still, many have already named Burlesque as the unintentional comedy of the year, and on some painful level it is hilariously enjoyable. Just don’t expect to be laughing with this farce – you’ll be laughing at it.
Burlesque is released in Australia January 13th
Director: Steve Antin
Cast: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Stanley Tucci, Cam Gagandet, Alan Cummings, Kristen Bell, Eric Dane, Peter Gallagher and Julianne Hough