Burlesque writer/director Steve Antin was watching the movie Showgirls one night and thought, “Man, this is a great flick, but it would even better if I added Cher and subtracted the nudity!” And thus Burlesque was born.
The scenario in the above paragraph may have been completely made up, but it’s better than other possible explanations of how this movie was made, including “on a dare,” “by Mad Libs” and “on accident.”
I don’t want to say Burlesque is bad, but you know all those movie theaters in New York that are infested with bedbugs? Word has it the creepy-crawly parasites have abandoned the establishments for fear of having to be subjected to the movie.
There’s a chance you’ll like the film. Perhaps if you’re Christina Aguilera’s mom or the spirit of Sonny Bono reincarnated as a person who can tolerate awful movies. Or maybe if you’re drunk or high and hanging out with friends and in the mood to laugh at something, Mystery Science Theater 3000-style, for 100 minutes.
Let’s set the stage: Christina Aguilera plays NomiMaloneWhoopsIMeant Ali, a desperate, lonely Midwestern girl with no family or prospects who lands on heading west to make it to the big time. Being a woman of modest means, NomiMaloneWhoopsIMeant Ali has a loose definition of what constitutes “the big time.”
When she steps into a 1930s-influenced hole in the wall that’s so awful its patrons tolerate a lip-syncing Kristen Bell as its lead attraction, NomiMaloneWhoopsIMeant Ali decides that she will dedicate her life, Rudy-style, toward one day being able to sing and dance for minimum wage on that magical stage for a crowd of 15 people. Or make the Notre Dame football team. Whatever’s easiest.
A rational Midwestern NomiMaloneWhoopsIMeant Ali might see such a place as a brief steppingstone to something better – maybe a gig as a greeter at Chili’s or something. But to the movie’s heroine, this burlesque club is living the dream.
Understandably, the joint is losing money, much to the despair of its owner, played by Cher, and her gay best friend (Stanley Tucci) with whom she once hooked up back in the day, as revealed by a story that’s about as believable as Cher’s plastic surgery.
An evil land developer wants to buy the club for way more than it’s worth and turn it into something less of an affront to society, such as a bedbug incubation farm, and he’s also dating the Bell character. But then NomiMaloneWhoopsIMeant Ali starts singing and shaking it like a genie that’s spent far too much time in the bottle, and he wants to rub her the right way. But the bartender guy likes her too, and so there’s a love tri… uh…
Since I stopped caring about the plot midway through the last paragraph and Antin stopped caring even before he wrote it, I won’t trouble you with any more setup. Just know that the high points involve Aguilera busting out that fantastic voice of hers, the low point involves Cher’s one ill-advised song, and Rudy not only makes the team but gets a sack on the very last play. Oh, and Christina Aguilera is every bit as good of an actor as she was on the Mickey Mouse Club. OK, not quite as good. But she does have boobs now.
Starring Christina Aguilera, Cher, Stanley Tucci, Kristen Bell, Cam Gigandet and Eric Dane. Written and directed by Steve Antin. Rated PG-13. 100 minutes.