Friday, November 26, 2010

Movie Review: Burlesque

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This week's movie was a little bit of an education. Heading into Burlesque, I'm expecting I'm gonna see *something*. I get in there and after the one minute shy of two hours length movie, I walk out not seeing *anything*; well, I didn't see anything that I wanted to see if you know what I mean. I wonder what happened. I hadn't checked my ticket to see the rating was PG-13 (sexual content including several suggestive dance routines, partial nudity, language and some thematic material) and not an R. I then looked up burlesque on Merriam-Webster online and found that burlesque is not strictly striptease, but "theatrical entertainment of a broadly humorous often earthy character consisting of short turns, comic skits, and sometimes striptease acts" and that it involves caricature and comic imitation. I did enjoy the movie, but once I got the definition of burlesque, the story made a whole lot more sense!

Watching Burlesque, I couldn't decide if I was watching Chicago, Moulin Rouge or Showgirls. Element from all of these releases ended up in this movie written and directed by Steve Antin. Ali (Christina Aguilera) leaves small town Iowa to follow her dream in Los Angeles. She starts looking for a job as a dancer. By accident she ends up visiting a lounge of the name Burlesque and is immediately enthralled by what she sees. She strikes up a quick conversation with the guyliner and bowler hat wearing bartender Jack (Cam Gigandet) and the two hit if off. He tells her to talk to Tess (Cher) the club owner. Both Tess and the stage manager Sean (Stanley Tucci) dismiss her. With determination in her eye, Ali using her Iowa waitressing skills picks up a tray and just starts waiting tables. She does it well and Jack gives her a job. Ali now has her foot in the door.

We are treated to the elaborate dance numbers through out. The girls, except for Tess, lip sync as they strut their stuff across the stage. Jack and Ali develop their friendship. Eventually Ali is given a chance to dance. When the boozy lead dancer Nikki (Kristen Bell) shows up late one night Ali is given her chance to lead. Nikki's mean girl act of pulling the vocal track to sabotage Ali backfires as Ali then belts out the song live, not Memorex and everyone is wowed! Tess decides to make Ali the headliner and redesigns the show around her using real vocals and not the lip sync. Karma Nikki, remember karma!

Marcus (Eric Dane) a developer who wants Tess' theater starts to date Ali. That's right, Tess is having problems behind the scenes and is trying to figure out how to save theater from bank foreclosure. So you can add in the element of theater rescue from most of the Muppet movies with the other plot lines. Ali's relationships between the regular guy bartender Jack and the powerful, loaded, know what he wants mogul Marcus is reminiscent of the love triangle of Moulin Rouge. That and their own rendition of Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend.

Within the story there's nothing really new. Lots of cliche's and standard formulas are used. What did surprise me is how upbeat the tone of the movie kept itself. It could have gone down some places of dirt, raunch or nastiness but it didn't. There could have been a lot of drug use, drunkenness, sex as a promotion tool, sex just for the purpose of getting it on. It took the higher road.

What sells the movie are the musical numbers. Two powerhouse voices of Aguilera and Cher combine to make the soundtrack something that I'm probably going to buy. Cher does the title song of Burlesque and a surprisingly powerful song called You Haven't Seen the Last of Me. This ballad will probably be nominated for a Best Song Oscar. Aguilera's song But I am a Good Girl is both an enjoyable listen and visually, very cute within the movie images. The dancing and the costumes along with the theater set up of the stage and the use of mirrors kept my eyes open and facing forward the entire time.

It's good to see Cher back on the big screen. She does a wonderful job as the been down in the trenches and golden hearted Tess. It seemed like every time she was on screen they used the soft glow filter! I don't know why that did that. She's 64 years old and still looks great. Aguilera does a respectable job for her first go in a feature length movie. She'll get better with more gigs. The standout performance for me was Tucci. He shows up on screen and you can't help but pay attention to him whether it's delivering a command to the dancers or a snarky but subtle response back to his boss.

At the end of the movie, there are no easter eggs. But, if you like what you see as the credits start to roll, stay in your seat and get treated to the light show.

The Movie Monkey

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