Here's a wildly unoriginal idea for a movie: A small-town girl moves to the big city, struggles at first, and becomes wildly successful, famous, beloved by everyone, and adored by a cute guy. Toss in some risque dance numbers and you have the movie Burlesque.
Ali (Christina Aguilera) is the young woman leaving Iowa for a better life in California. After a very brief job-hunting montage she winds up at the Burlesque Lounge (a pretty unoriginal name for a, er, burlesque lounge) and is enthralled by the sexy dancing. Quickly chatting up cute bartender Jack (Cam Gigandet), she gets a job as a waitress. But wouldn't you know it, she wants to dance! On stage! And she wants them to sing instead of just lip-syncing!
The club has its own problems. Owner/performer/surrogate mother to the dancers Tess (Cher) is drowning in debt and resisting offers to sell the place to real-estate developer Marcus (Eric Dane). Lead performer Nikki (Kristen Bell) shows up late, drinks too much, sabotages anyone she sees as a threat, and apparently has no redeeming qualities.
What else? Let's toss in a funny gay friend, Sean (Stanley Tucci, who steals every scene he's in), who's Tess's friend and works at the club. Let's make Jack more than a bartender, but a sensitive hunk who writes songs. Let's have Ali move in with Jack, but nothing happen because he has a demanding fiancee who's in New York. Let's have baddie Marcus romancing Ali. And, of course, let's have Ali go from a nobody to famous and the savior of the club.
Burlesque was painful, but not entirely so. The music was quite good, Stanley Tucci is hilarious, and the musical numbers are like a well-performed music video. (Burlesque is PG-13, so if you're hoping to see a lot of skin you'll get tease instead of totality.) Unfortunately Christina Aguilera is very dull when she's not singing, and Cher's role has her doing little more than being a den mother. Some of the dialogue is laughably bad, and the villains are so one-dimensional they should be wearing black hats.
According to the IMDB, writer-director Steve Antin got the idea for Burlesque after watching Aguilera performing with the Pussycat Dolls. If only he'd known that sexy dancing alone can't sustain a full-length movie...
Overall grade: D
Reviewed by James Lynch