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Burlesque - Review

Burlesque

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

SOME films are so bad they’re good and Burlesque sings and dances its way firmly into that category.

Inspired by every small-town girl with big dreams tale you care to name, Steven Antin’s film plays like a family friendly Showgirls meets Coyote Ugly complete with a little Disney princess thrown in.

Christina Aguilera plays Ali, the small-town girl in question, who heads to the big city in search of fame and fortune, only to find her spiritual home in a small revue theatre called Burlesque, run by singer and dancer Tess (Cher).

Desperate to earn her break, Ali starts working as a waitress and quietly learns the routines before grasping her opportunity to impress and finding herself the new centre of attention. But while her talent could be enough to save Tess’ club from financial ruin, Ali soon finds herself in demand from its would-be buyer (Eric Dane) and the amiable barman (Cam Gigandet) she shares a flat with… not to mention a rival dancer (Kristen Bell) who used to be Burlesque’s top attraction.

Antin’s film barely has an original bone in its body and rolls out the cliches in a script that is both laughably naive and hilariously OTT. But for all of its cheesy values and well-worn plot beats, it retains a knowing sense of its own absurdity.

It’s this, more than anything, that enables Burlesque to become the unashamedly good time at the movies that it becomes… as well as some breathtaking musical numbers that really do play to the strengths of its lead performer.

Aguilera may find herself under-written as a character, and therefore unable to really tap into any serious acting credentials, but she’s undoubtedly a mesmerising performer with a voice to die for and the moves to match.

Antin’s film comes alive during the burlesque moments, emerging as sexy, feisty, playful and inspired in the same way that the likes of Glee and Footloose/Flashdance do and did in their respective primes. During such moments (and there are plenty of them), Burlesque displays an energy that’s utterly infectious.

Strong, too, are several of the supporting performances, with Stanley Tucci – in particular – on typically scene-stealing form as Tess’ business partner, Gigandet a suitably charismatic (if obvious) love interest with a nice line in self-deprecating humour, and Bell doing her bitchy best as Ali’s bitter rival (she scours with aplomb).

Cher is Cher and nothing more, but also gets to belt out a couple of pleasing musical numbers, and Dane smoulders just like he does in Grey’s Anatomy without much meat to his character.

But Antin’s film (which he also scripted) seems to have the measure of its audience and doesn’t strive too hard for any shallow depth that simply isn’t necessary.

Rather, unintentionally or not, it celebrates its own stupidity and audacity with several laugh out loud moments that succeed in putting a big, sloppy grin on viewers’ faces.

The overall result is a film that really should rate among the worst of the year, but which ultimately displays the very same triumph against the odds elements and appeal of most of its leading characters. It’s a blast from beginning to end, and destined for [good] cult status.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 118mins
UK Release Date: December 17, 2010