The musical purist inside my brain warned me that Burlesque would be little more than a loud, saucy cheesecake of a film that reeks of self-indulgence.
My response: “As well it should be.”
Christina Aguilera (cast more for her ferocious set of pipes than her “acting” ability) plays a hopeful young talent from Iowa who makes the trek to Hollywood where she starts off waitressing at a burlesque lounge run by a sardonic impresario played by Cher (the movie's real attraction). In typical rags-to-riches fashion, Aguilera eventually kick-steps her way to the stage where she floors the crowd with her killer singing voice, finds improbable romance, and helps save the club from total rack and ruin.
The beginning skips along at a mostly enjoyable clip, but suffers from major arrhythmia, mainly propagated by the immiscible interlacing of abrasive pop songs and traditional burlesque staples on the soundtrack, and by writer-director Steve Antin's poor grasp of montage. The musical numbers are expectedly glittery and randy, featuring plenty of sequins, ostrich feathers, flashy lighting, raucous editing, and enough boobs & booty shots to fill a 14 year-old's hard drive. Clearly it's been influenced by the likes of its older cousins Chicago and Moulin Rouge!. If that's all you came for (guilty), the first half will serve you reasonably well.
Aguilera is undoubtedly a talented musical performer, but her acting could use a lot of work, as she just can't strike a convincing balance between naïve farm girl and brassy go-getter. Her costar Cher acts with much more conviction, and her big entrance number “Welcome To Burlesque” is the best part of the film.
The second half starts to drag. Big time! Less sexy hip-thrusting and more contrived drama that simply grinds the whole thing to a halt. Had I but known! I'd have had no problem leaving after 60 minutes.
As for Oscar, I'd venture that the original song “You Haven't Seen The Last Of Me” by six-time nominee Diane Warren could be nominated. There's also an outside chance the bling-bling costumes and sets could find room, but I wouldn't count on it.
** out of ****