'Burlesque' same old song and dance
"Burlesque" could be called a concept film in the loosest sense.
The concept? Christina Aguilera and Cher can sing and dance.
The rest, including any semblance of story or plot, is simply filler for a song and dance showcase.
But, despite the leads' obvious talent, this showcase stumbles off its high heels, gets entangled in a feather boa, tumbles off stage and onto some poor sap's table, spilling cosmopolitans and cliche in every direction.
Director Steve Antin's first feature-length film, "Burlesque" (also written by Antin) gleans practically everything from more successful musicals, namely "Cabaret," and makes a lifeless carbon copy, but on colorful paper.
The story's like a boring Mad Lib, in that Antin's filling in a prewritten narrative not with silly words, but with proper nouns, like "Christina Aguilera" "Cher," and "Stanley Tucci."
As a result, "Burlesque" only succeeds in its music and dance routines, which are outweighed by the story's uneven pacing, laughable dialogue and cliched plot devices.
Aguilera stars as Ali, a small-town girl with stars in her eyes. She leaves her waitressing job in rural Iowa for Los Angeles, hoping to strike it big as a singer and dancer.
What she finds, at first, is very brief difficulty landing a job, until she forces her way into another serving position at a popular, but PG-13, burlesque club, run by the seasoned Tess (Cher).
As a means to an end, she rooms with effeminate but assuredly straight bartender Jack (Cam Gigandet, "New Moon"), who needs help with rent while his actress fiancee performs indefinitely in New York. You can guess what happens.
Meanwhile, back at the lounge, Ali yearns for the stage and finally gets her break when a regular dancer becomes pregnant. She auditions, impressing both Tess and stage manager Sean (Stanley Tucci, "Easy A"), while infuriating liquor-soaked diva Nikki (Kristen Bell, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall").
Things are looking up for Ali, but not for Tess, whose business is up to its sequined bra in debt. Throw in an egotistical developer (Eric Dane, TV's "Grey's Anatomy") who wants to tear down the club to build a residential skyscraper, and you've got cliched subplot No. 2.
Striving to find new ways of making ends meet, Tess ignores Ali's suggestion to let the dancers sing, rather than lip-sync. Ali gets her chance when Nikki sabotages her set, pulling the plug on the sound and leaving Ali to provide the vocals, which she most triumphantly accomplishes.
Ali becomes the top attraction, is immediately accepted by her peers (minus Nikki, of course) and taken under Tess' wing, thus beginning her ascent to burlesque club stardom.
Performance is Aguilera's strong suit, but not necessarily acting. She excels at song and dance, but, as a diva in her own right, she's just not that convincing as a hopeful starlet. And the elementary and recycled dialogue doesn't help.
Cher, whose single-expression face seems more plastic than flesh, also performs admirably - when on stage. The film even offers her an obligatory solo. Her character, on the other hand, offers nothing more than caustic remarks, sage advice and the "Hey, it's Cher" factor.
Bell dances well, when she's not glaring at Aguilera, and there are even abbreviated appearances by Alan Cumming ("GoldenEye") and James Brolin ("Catch Me If You Can").
The only standout acting in "Burlesque" comes from the always reliable Tucci, who, even though his character's limited to comical quips and, again, sage advice, actually lends a little heart to a two-dimensional role.
"Burlesque" could have succeeded on its musical performances alone, but director Antin's perceived need to pad it with a been-there-done-that plot and fill-in-the-blanks writing spells sequined doom before the curtain even rises.
"Burlesque," rated PG-13 for sexual content including several suggestive dance routines, partial nudity, language and some thematic material, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.