The subject of cheesy musicals came up in a conversation the other day.Oklahoma was mentioned, as was South Pacific.
“You want cheesy, go see Burlesque,” exclaimed one of the conversants. I had to agree with him: Burlesque is cheesy. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth seeing.
In many ways, Burlesque is an anachronism, really quite an-old fashioned movie.
Right from the point where it opens, with a dynamite rendition of ’50s R&B belter Etta James’ classic “Something’s Got A Hold On Me“, the film truly belongs to songstress Christina Aguilera.
She sings with a powerful and forceful voice, she dances up a storm. And guess what: she can act.
Aguilera plays Ali Rose, a small-town Iowa waitress who decides to take off for LA and seek fame and fortune, after her boss has stiffed her for her pay for the last time. Scooping out of the till the amount he owes her, she’s off on the Greyhound, never to look back.
From here, the clichés flow fast and thick, through the course of a razor-thin plot that serves mainly as a vehicle for Aguilera’s considerable musical talent.
She’s assisted ably in this department by the one and only Cher, who plays Tess, the beleaguered owner of a Sunset Strip lounge where Ali ends up waitressing.
The club itself is anachronistic, an Americanized Folies Bergères, with scores of girls gaudily costumed and featured in elaborate production numbers, highly unlikely in a post-recession America with a 10-percent unemployment rate.
Perhaps that’s why Tess is at the point of desperation, with the Club Burlesque mortgaged to the hilt and about to go under. Tess has an offer from a wealthy developer, but the club is her very life and she refuses to sell, no matter how grim things get.
Meanwhile, with stars in her eyes, our comely Ali gazes longingly at the girls as they go through their routines, and wonders aloud as she serves drinks to patrons, “How can I get there from here?”
With bigger problems on her mind, Tess ignores her as Ali entreats her with the line that’s become so familiar through the course of 75 years of American musical bio-films: “Just give me a chance. Let me up on that stage, I know I can do it!”
Eventually she bulls her way onstage and, of course, becomes the hit of the show.
Sure it’s cornball, but it’s well-done cornball. Aguilera’s energy and vibrancy keep things moving well, and Cher proves in her dynamic numbers that she’s still got the stuff.
Veteran character actor Stanley Tucci (Big Night) plays Tess’s sardonic gay assistant, while Cam Gigandet (Twilight, Big Moon) plays bartender Jack, one of Ali’s two love interests – the other being the developer type, which leads to the inevitable complications.
For an entertaining night out, devoid of shoot-em-ups, vampires or wizards, go see Burlesque. Suspend your need for plot development, just sit back and enjoy the music, already.
Burlesque plays at the Qwanlin Cinema at 6:45 and 9:15 pm, and is rated PG for coarse language.
Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.