Photo: Stephen Vaughan/Screen Gems

Director(s): Steven Antin

Writer(s): Steven Antin

Cast: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet, Julianne Hough, Alan Cumming and Peter Gallagher

Reviewed by: Ian Evans on

Release Date(s)

Nov 24, 2010 - Wide

Missing: 116 minutes of my life. Last seen entering the cinema where Burlesque was playing.

Burlesque, the new film starring Christina Aguilera and Cher, may be just the solution to the bed bug problem in some downtown cinemas, as no self-respecting insect would want to be caught dead in a joint that would play this movie.

The film is so cliche-ridden that you could probably complete the plot before I even start describing it. Ali (Aguilera) is a small-town girl with dreams bigger than the trailer she lives in. She ditches Iowa for L.A. and soon finds herself in a burlesque club aptly named Burlesque. She goes from audience member to waitress to chorus girl to lead performer in less time than it would take to send back a lipstick-stained cocktail glass.

If the characters seem flimsy it’s because they’re copies of copies made in some screenwriters’ copy shop. This movie borrows so much from others that it should have a library card.

Cher’s Tess is the tough-talking mother hen with a heart of gold. Stanley Tucci is the assistant who’d be the love of her life if only he wasn’t gay. Kristen Bell is the former star of the lounge who has a problem with both the bottle and Ali’s ambitions, while Dancing with the Stars’ Julianne Hough is the chorus girl who conveniently gets pregnant so Ali can join the cast. Cam Gigandet plays the platonic roommate who wants more and Alan Cumming plays a character whose sole purpose is to give the film some Cabaret cachet. His role is probably just long enough to keep his SAG health benefits current.

Of course, Tess’ lounge is just one balloon payment short of being seized and Eric Dane is the real estate developer who can fatten her wallet and crush her dreams at the same time. I really wouldn’t have been surprised if he had tied Cher to the tracks and twisted the ends of his moustache as the train approached. Which is apropos, seeing as this film is a train wreck.

The film has a lot of laughs, which would have been great if it was a comedy. While Aguilera’s vocal range is huge, her acting range currently has one note. She also moves from bluesy burlesque tunes without any emotional connection to over-produced pop numbers that would never be found in a burlesque joint.

Cher proves that she can still belt out a power ballad with the best of them and her scenes with Stanley Tucci actually do have some real warmth in them even though their dialogue produces more clunkers than a lead balloon factory. Sadly, her close-ups reveal a face that contains more botulinum toxin than a condemned meat packing plant. Though Cher can still emote with her voice, her face has less expression than Rocky Dennis in Mask.

Writer-director Steven Antin, whose sister Robin founded the Pussycat Dolls, has created a movie in search of a drinking game. The film doesn’t transition from scene to scene as much as it stumbles like one of the lounge’s drunken patrons. While Burlesque aspires to the “so bad it’s good” territory of the much-maligned Showgirls, this one’s PG-13 so the stupidity of it all isn’t even given an edge by sex and nudity. Since the whole production feels like its one step removed from some other original source material, it’s only fitting that it comes across as Showgirls as interpreted by a community theater group.