Burlesque. When one hears the word, you usually think of one of two things: either a dark or shady old club or, for the newer generation, the dance style of the singing group “The Pussycat Dolls.” That second connotation is why it came as no surprise that Screen Gems chose Steve Antin to write and direct its most expensive movie to date: “Burlesque.”
Antin who was brought to the public’s eye with his memorable performances in “The Goonies,” “Sweet 16” and popular television shows like “21 Jump Street” and “N.Y.P.D. Blue.” Later, he went on to be a stuntman, a screen writer, a producer and now, a director. I think the experience that helped to clinch him this directing deal was the fact that he produced the reality show “The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll” in 2007, and that experience really shows through into the movie.
Ali Rose (Christina Aguilera) is a small-town waitress with big hopes and dreams and an even larger voice, so she decides to escape from average life with no possibilities and go to Los Angeles to pursue her dreams of becoming a singer. Arriving in Los Angeles and looking for a job was leading nowhere until she stumbles into a struggling old Burlesque club. Mesmerized by the lights, dancing, costumes and atmosphere, Ali immediately approaches Tess (Cher), the owner and headliner of the club, to get a job. After being turned away, she decides to take matters into her own hands and starts waiting tables to show them that she can be of use at the club somehow. Befriending a bartender named Jack (Cam Gigandet) helps her get the waitress job at the club and even a place to stay.
Biding her time waiting tables and paying close attention to all of the songs and dance routines proves fruitful when the lead dancer, Nikki (Kristen Bell), is always showing up drunken and late, and another dancer, Georgia (Julianne Hough), needs to leave the show. So Ali shows Tess and the stage manager Sean (Stanley Tucci) that she knows the routines and becomes one of the featured dancers and things are finally starting to look up for her.
And although the club has never been busier, Tess doesn’t have enough money to pay the bank all of the money she owes. With the prospect of losing the club on the horizon, a wealthy entrepreneur (Eric Dane) offers to buy the club from Tess, but with no promise if he will keep it open or not. What can they all do tokeep the club alive and everybody happy?
Just from watching the trailer for “Burlesque,” you could see similarities to movie musicals such as “Chicago,” “Moulin Rouge” and “Cabaret.” There is even a “Diamonds” dance number that is very reminiscent of Nicole Kidman’s opening number in “Moulin Rouge.” I enjoyed all of those musicals, so I just figured “Burlesque” would end up being the same … and I was right. The primary differences are that people don’t break into song mid-sentence, like in some musicals, and the majority of the musical numbers are on stage in the club. There are 10 musical numbers in the movie: Cher sang two and Christina Aguilera the other eight. They are upbeat and fun and make for a great soundtrack.
Some might think that this is a showpiece for Cher; after all, she did have some noteworthy performances in the past and even won an Oscar for her role in 1988’s “Moonstruck.” After watching the film, I realized that this movie is all about showing what Christina Aguilera can do. We all know she can belt it out, but to my surprise, she can really act, too. Her performance was simple, yet elegant. She pulls off both the small-town girl and the crazy-talented singer and dancer. She showed a lot of genuine emotional range in this movie.
Ali has two pivotal relationships in the movie, one with Tess and the other with Jack. Although I truly saw a mother/daughter relationship between the women, the romantic side of the movie wasn’t quite as strong. Although Christina and Cam did have pretty good chemistry onscreen, I felt their relationship was more because they are two attractive people as opposed to being meant for each other.
The sets, music, lights and costumes provided an orgy of delight in the visuals and audio. The camerawork felt smooth when it needed to be and rough when a certain number called for it. Overall, this movie was just a colorful masterpiece for the eyes. The film-makers did a quality job of making her hometown monochromatic, while Los Angeles and the club are just a flurry of lights and sounds — it really shows the difference between the two and the attraction for her. And just like with “Chicago,” the musical numbers are phenomenal and over-the-top in a good way. “Burlesque” is eye candy from start to finish.
“Burlesque” bumps and grinds its way onto the screen Nov. 24 in theaters everywhere. It is rated PG-13 for sexual content including several suggestive dance routines, partial nudity, language and some thematic material.
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