Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Movie with Abe: Burlesque

Directed by Steve Antin
Released November 24, 2010

Imagine a sweet-natured small town girl with the lungs of a banshee who decides to pack up and leave her lackluster Iowa home and try to make it in the big city. She journeys to Hollywood, where she thinks she can succeed as a big star. Her over-simplified, rather short search for fame lands her in a burlesque parlor where she hires herself as a waitress and promises herself that, one day, she’s going to make it up onto the stage and become a star in her own right. This excessively familiar tale boasts two strong original songs, but that’s about it when it comes to anything new or worthwhile.

As Ali (Christina Aguilera) struggles to make it in showbiz, she doesn’t really struggle all that much. She immediately wins the affection of eyeliner-wearing bartender Jack (Cam Gigandet), who hastily offers up his couch for the starving artist to stay on, and her hardships aren’t terribly hard at all. Tess (Cher) is positioned to be the lofty, high-powered diva of the burlesque parlor, but her soft side shines through far too transparently, and there’s never much doubt that Tess will warm to the considerable charms of the cute-as-a-button Ali (in other words, she’s hardly Miranda Priestly).

In a movie musical such as this, it’s important to have performers with magnificent voices. But does acting need to be sacrificed? Christina Aguilera makes her horrific film debut, and the discrepancy between the quality of her singing and the quality of her acting makes it hard to believe that both are coming from the same person. In one scene, Ali chastises Tess for never letting anyone else speak. Yet Ali barely stops talking for the entire run of the movie, save for her singing bits, and Aguilera charges excitedly charges through all of her lines, transforming an entire page of dialogue into one run-on sentence, underlining the fact that she is no actress.

It doesn’t help one bit that the script is simply abysmal. The writing is laughable, and the predictable, uninventive story, with only a burlesque twist to define it, is infinitely better than any of the words these actors painfully have to utter. Cher’s spoken performance is horrendous as well, and she’s even given an unnecessary song called “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” (admittedly, a terrific number), seemingly inserted only to honor her and tribute her greatness. Eric Dane of “Grey’s Anatomy” McSteaminess feels extremely out of place, and Stanley Tucci, in an obviously effortless performance, delivers the only decent turn in the whole film. “Burlesque” does know how to use some of its musical numbers, however, and Aguilera’s crooning of “Bound to You” is probably the film’s standout moment. The film succeeds occasionally as a spectacle, creating an entertaining enough experience, but this shouldn’t be mistaken for a good movie.


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