Wednesday, December 22, 2010

BURLESQUE - nonsense

BURLESQUE is a Hollywood song-and-dance movie that exists entirely as a vehicle for Christina Aguilera and consists entirely as a collage of cinematic clichés, over-singing and over-acting. Debut writer-director Steve Antin should be ashamed to have so blatantly tried to rip off the style of the non-pareil musical, CABARET, harnessing Fosse's dance-steps to a plot so vacuous as to make a barbie doll look real.

Aguilera plays a wannabe who leaves rural Iowa for LA, stumbles into Cher's gorgeously appointed but dangerously over-mortgaged nightclub. By sheer irritating perseverance she works her way from waitress to chorus-line dancer to Star, allowing Cher to double the entry fee and potentially save her club from the twin clutches of the bankers and an oleaginous property developer called Marcus. Meanwhile, Christina, piqued that her room-mate Jack already has a fiancée is seeing the aforementioned Marcus, and risks losing her soul for fame, or something.

Everything here is hokey and unimportant. Of course the wannabe comes from the country! No aspiring singer in a movie of this sort comes from down the street, otherwise where would our greyhound bus scene be?! Of course the room-mate she thinks is gay turns out to be hot and fit and straight and to have a massive crush on her! Of course there's a richer older man waiting to tempt her away from true love! Of course Cher is a battleaxe with a fag hag best friend!

I couldn't care less. The reason why musicals like CABARET and CHICAGO work is that beyond their glitz and jazz there's some pretty serious satire and politics in there. And in musicals that are pure romance - Butterfly, Boheme, Camille etc - the romance is pitched at such a level that it transcends schmaltz and becomes tragedy. BURLESQUE has neither of these qualities. Rather, it's emotional concerns are straight from a Sweet Valley High novel.

Oh, and by the way, the reason why great musicals work is because, au fond, they have great showtunes. Even OKLAHOMA!, which I find really quite sinister and disturbing, has amazing numbers and set-pieces. The music in BURLESQUE is simply to weak - too forgettable - too paint-by-numbers.

So what do we have in the end? A threadbare plot of no consequence. Plenty of opportunity for Christina Aquilera to shriek. A complete waste of Cher's acting talent. Stanley Tucci reprising his fag-hag role from DEVIL WEARS PRADA. And dear lord, why on EARTH did they bother casting Alan Cumming not to use him at all. That man has more pure acting, dancing, singing and genuine CABARET instinct and talent running through his veins that the rest of this cast put together. And what does he get? Barely two scenes.

Shame, shame, shame.

BURLESQUE has somewhat bizarrely been nominated for three Golden Globes.

BURLESQUE is on release in the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK, Japan, Belgium, France and Switzerland. It opens this weekend in Latvia, Romania, Vietnam and Denmark. It opens on December 30th in Portugal; on January 1st in Taiwan; on January 5th in Egypt and Jordan; on January 6th in Austria, Bahrain, Germany, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Thailand, the UAE and Turkey. It opens on January 13th in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the Ukraine, Brazil and Lithuania. It opens on January 21st in Argentina, Ecuador, Estonia, South Africa and Uruguay. It opens on January 26th in Indonesia, Bulgaria, India, Mexico, Norway, Sweden and the Philippines. BURLESQUE opens on February 3rd in Chile, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Slovenia, Finland, Iceland and Poland. It opens on February 11th in Slovakia, Colombia, Kenya and Nigeria. It opens on February 17th in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Italy. It opens later in February in Bolivia, Russia, Serbia and Venezuela.

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