Published on December 3rd, 2010 | by Kitty Catastrophe3
Where to begin with the glorious, campy mess that is Burlesque? Half Chicago, half Cabaret, all crazy. Allow me to start by saying that this film is terrible. But it’s the good kind of terrible, if you know what I mean. It’s endearingly mental, cheesy, cliché and over the top, and once you just accept that and get on with it, it makes for quite an enjoyable, if totally ridiculous, romp. Christina Aguilera plays Ali, an aspiring singer/dancer and wide-eyed small town girl with the amazing honking voice etc etc, who packs up her meagre belongings (including a weird photo of her and her mother in which they both look oddly frightened) and buses her way right to the Hollywood sign itself in order to Make It. She soon stumbles across The Burlesque Lounge, and their saucy, sequinned musical revue, starring club owner Tess (played by Cher) and quickly achieves her goal to perform onstage there.
If I may digress ever so slightly, the word burlesque is actually completely misused as the title for both this movie and the fictional club. It’s really a film about a cabaret show that, from what I could make out, had flip all to do with actual burlesque (bar a half assed tribute to Sally Rand’s signature ostrich feather fan routine), which when you get down to it, is stripping. But I suppose they could hardly call it Cabaret, that title being taken and all. Anyway. The storyline itself doesn’t actually matter too much, half-baked Coyote Ugly pastiche that it is, nor do any of the supporting characters. No, these things exist solely to give Christina and Cher’s characters something to react to, or a reason to suddenly launch into a huge shiny showtune accompanying a montage of events. The film itself is essentially a series of montages, punctuated with bewildering lines like “How many times have I held your head over the toilet while you threw up everything but your memories?” and an unnecessary amount of meaningful looks. In fact, all Kristen Bell as the bitchy, spoiled Nikki seems to do is glare menacingly at Ali, or pause long enough in order to allow our plucky heroine to deliver witty put downs such as “no-one would ever think you were a dude“. Smart as a whip, is our Ali.
It’s a little hard to accept Christina as the naive ingenue, seeing as one of the public’s most enduring images of her is her mudwrestling in assless pants in the video for Dirty, but really that’s the least of this movie’s issues. Cher’s expressionless, immovable Easter Island statue face does it’s best to look happy or sad accordingly, and she brings the film to a grinding halt halfway through when she belts out her I’m-down-but-not-out-bitches number in thigh high hooker boots and a sparkly leotard, straddling a chair. It’s a ridiculous glittery car crash of a movie, with baffling dialogue, some truly gorgeous costumes, a criminally underused Alan Cumming and every hackneyed cliché in the book. Top marks for Cher’s magic make up brush though. Two tiny strokes of it on your mouth and KABLAMMO! you’ve got yourself a pouting set of fully red lips. Much of the hilarity is unintentional, and with the whole cinema in on the joke, it was a huge amount of demented, delicious fun to watch.
Ten fake eyelashes out of ten.