It is a little disappointing that Burlesque does not fall into the ‘it’s so bad, it’s good’ category, despite its casting and premise. Sure, the plot is predictable and the writing uninspired, but the musical numbers are incredibly fun and overall Burlesque is an enjoyable enough movie.
Small-town girl Ali buys a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, with dreams of making it big. She finds a job waitressing at a burlesque club run by Tess, who is having financial difficulties. Ali dreams of performing on the stage, while Tess is desperate for a solution to her difficulties…
Given a renaissance by the likes of Dita von Teese, burlesque seems a ripe subject for a film. Christina Aguilera is a sound choice for the protagonist. She has the look and the attitude necessary, together with a tremendous set of lungs. The film is a great showcase for her performing talents, if not for her acting skills. Cher, also, is an appropriate choice for the grand-dame matriarch figure. Yet despite this, Burlesque is not as camp as you might expect; the glitter and garishness are present, but the film lacks flamboyancy.
Burlesque functions as a ‘small-town girl trying to make it big’ movie, very much in the same vein as Coyote Ugly. The storyline is very predictable; there is little innovation in this aspect of the film. Several of the jokes fall flat; although Burlesque tries to be humorous, it does not really succeed. Some of the segue ways prior to the next musical number appear wooden, particularly the introduction to ‘You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me’.
Director and writer Steve Antin adds little depth to his characters. Ali is very one-dimensional; precious little is garnered about her background, or what triggers her to make a life-changing move. Likewise, Jack appears to be a very standard love interest for Ali. There is nothing particularly interesting about this character; he functions predominantly as eye candy for the audience (largely made up of women and gay men, presumably).
Where Burlesque excels is in its lavish production numbers. The choreography is fun and enticing, and the music is excellent. The other scenes seem like intermissions before another song; the musical numbers certainly hold the film together. Costume designer Michael Kaplan has created some fantastic costumes, which are pivotal to certain routines.
Christina Aguilera is adequate as Ali; the role is not a great measurement of her acting capabilities. Cher has a commanding presence in the film. Her appearance in musical sequence ‘Welcome to Burlesque’ is a great introduction. Stanley Tucci and Cam Gigandet, meanwhile, do their best given the limitations of the material.
Burlesque is at times by-the-numbers and at other times flashy and entertaining. The film features great production on the musical numbers, and can be described as mediocre at worst in the other scenes.