Movie Review: Burlesque


An ingénue from Iowa moves to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of a singing career and finds herself working in a burlesque club.


Steven Antin, 2010

Stuck in a dead-end waitressing job in a small town, Ali (Christina Aguilera) dreams of something better. One day, she takes all the money she has and moves to LA in the hopes of doing something with her life. After job hunting for a while she decides to take in the culture and winds up in a burlesque club owned by Tess (Cher). The club is struggling, but after some initial confusion and flirtation with bartender Jack (Cam Gigandet), Ali becomes enchanted by the lip-synced dances and takes it upon herself to start working there. (Literally. She takes a tray from a paid waitress and starts working unpaid.) Tess and her…business partner, I think?…Sean (Stanley Tucci) try to keep the club afloat and out of the hands of real estate mogul Marcus (Eric Dane). Meanwhile, Ali reveals her singing chops and gives the club a whole new angle as she begins to perform, much to the consternation of former lead dancer Nikki (Kristen Bell, who doesn’t sing).


There is so much wrong with this movie that it’s hard to know where to start, so let’s get the stuff that’s right out of the way first. Christina Aguilera has a good set of pipes and some dancing talent. Combined with some decent direction for the musical numbers from former Goonie hater Steve Antin (he played Troy), that makes at least the staged dances pretty entertaining. Also, Stanley Tucci, Alan Cumming, and Kristen Bell are in this movie. They are all excellent people, and while they’re all stuck in dead-end roles, Stanley Tucci makes the most of his role as Tess’s gay boyfriend sort of thing. Alan Cumming gets to perform half of one song. Kristen Bell mostly glares while wearing corsets. In spite of the writers’ best efforts to make Ali totally unlikable, Aguilera actually wrings some charm out of the irritating role. There’s something refreshing about her Ali, who isn’t your typical naive, virginal small-town girl. She has control over her own sexuality and her own choices. It’s sad that I feel like I have to mention that, but it’s something, at least.

Unfortunately, this is one of the worst scripts I’ve ever had the misfortune of sitting through. The original songs are nowhere near as good as the singers performing them, The dialogue is hokey as hell, but worse, it seems like the writers have never taken storytelling 101. There is almost no tension in the whole film. There’s a lot of incidental tension. Jack (played by Cam Gigandet, who I’m pretty sure is this generation’s Chad Michael Murray) has a fiancee but keeps flirting with Ali, Nikki is mad at Ali for taking her spot in the show and being more talented than her, and Marcus likes Ali but wants to buy and knock down the club (which is perfectly valid, by the way, and at least he’s not really painted as a “bad guy” for it). None of this actually pays off, though. The film’s climax is achieved through an exciting scene of…talking to a different investor. That’s it. There’s no pay-off for anything, and the final musical scene doesn’t tie into the plot at all. In fact, none of them do. Then again, there’s not a whole lot of plot to stop in order for the songs to happen. In spite of this lack of anything resembling a story, the movie lasts for TWO HOURS. That’s a hell of a long time for nothing to happen except for Stanley Tucci wearing a bathrobe after hooking up with a hot guy (100% the highlight of the film, by the way). Ali didn’t have to learn anything at all, either; she ended the film exactly the same as when it started, only with a new job and a boyfriend in eyeliner. Not worth watching.

Burlesque on IMDb


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