Though Gertrude Stein’s famous line, “there’s no there there,” could certainly apply to the surprisingly sexless Burlesque, when it comes right down to the film, I must admit that there’s not a lot of Cher “there” either.
A true cinematic showcase centered on writer/director Steven Antin’s muse Christina Aguilera in her acting debut – whereas Chicago offered audiences “All that Jazz,” Burlesque gives us “All that Aguilera.”
Yet despite the fact that the blonde belter’s opportunity to make a memorable impression as an actress is hampered by Antin’s flat, forgettable and formulaic 42nd Street inspired screenplay that had to be revised twice (by Diablo Cody and Susannah Grant), the Grammy winner with a voice that’s bigger than Burlesque more than lives up to the task.
And even though the only musical experience that Ali (Aguilera) had ever had was singing along with the jukebox after hours in the small town diner where she waitressed in Iowa, she arrives fresh-faced and fresh off the bus in L.A., eager to be – if not a star – then at least heard by humans instead of hamburgers.
Luckily, once the sweetly tenacious hard-worker proves her loyalty to a formerly glamorous but now near bankrupt modern burlesque club run by Cher’s Tess, Ali gets her chance to shine sooner rather than later.
After picking up a tray and pitching in where help is needed, she quickly rises through the ranks, moving from bar waitress to back-up dancer to headliner when Ali’s vocal gymnastics cause an act of intended sabotage from the club’s requisite bitchy diva (Kristen Bell) to backfire.
Overlooking the obvious critique that the choreography and execution seem less inspired by burlesque than by what would play on MTV (perhaps blended in with a little Fosse), the film easily commands our attention during its outstanding production numbers by offering us a different side of Aguilera that we haven’t witnessed before.
Likewise, since it’s the musical performances that you’ll remember more than anything else, it’s too bad that Antin didn’t opt to make Burlesque a full-blown musical. Instead, the rest of the remarkably tame film is bogged down by uninteresting stock characters, a predictable love triangle and weak subplots recycled from other song and dance pictures, both contemporary and classic.
Thus, aside from a precious few triumphant moments such as Cher’s rendition of the Golden Globe winning song “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” along with her one delicious diva minute of catty confrontation involving a tire iron and a car window, when the ho-hum movie isn’t “All that Aguilera,” it just becomes “All that Potential.”
Although we definitely hoped to see more Cher, especially given the strange but true realization that this is her first ever film in the musical genre, Cher nonetheless fares better than her under-utilized cast members including Stanley Tucci, Alan Cumming, Dancing with the Stars’s Julianne Hough, Glee star Dianna Agron, and So You Think You Can Dance’s Chelsea Traille among others.
More benign fluff than "burlesque," the for-fans-only flick is especially worth the upgrade to Blu-ray for Aguilera devotees as the gorgeous high definition visual quality and pitch-perfect sonic clarity of Sony’s transfer nearly blows the roof off your home while turning the fantastical club act to a floor show in your family room.
Special Features Note: Even though Burlesque was released as a budget saving Combo Pack to future proof your collection with the inclusion of a DVD, the lack of a digital copy for this title seems like a strange oversight since it would’ve easily appealed to Aguilera’s young, tech-savvy fan base so those wanting a portable version will need to purchase it in a digital/download format separately.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
Labels: Blu-ray Review