On a scale of 1 to Ridiculous, “Burlesque,” the new film starring dueling pop divas Cher and Christina Aguilera, it’s Rip Taylor. A glittery mix of “All About Eve,” “Striptease” and “42nd Street” it is for people who didn’t find “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” campy enough.
Xtina plays Allie, a small girl with a giant voice who leaves her Podunk Iowa town to find fame and fortune in Los Angeles. Then, in an explosion of glitter and cone bras, she lands a job as a waitress at Burlesque, a place with no windows, but the “Best View on the Sunset Strip.” It’s an old school burlesque house, seemingly inhabited by the spirit of Bob Fosse, on the verge of bankruptcy, currently being run into the ground by Tess (Cher) and Sean (Stanley Tucci). Christina, and her highly articulated vocalizing come along just in time to save the club, romance a handsome bartender (Cam Gigandet) and a multimillionaire (Eric Dane) and alienate the club’s reigning diva.
“Burlesque,” is essentially a vehicle for Christina’s vocal acrobatics. It hangs a recycled show biz story—girl from the sticks becomes a star in Los Angeles—on the elastic voice talents of its star. Less than five minutes into the story she’s on a stage bellowing a multi-octave cover of the Etta James classic “Something’s Got a Hold on Me.” If that sends a shiver down your spine, then “Burlesque” is for you. If not, it’s going to be a long two hours.
Only Cher and Stanley Tucci seem to understand what kind of movie this is. Only Cher could intone a line about helping a dancer when she was drunk and sick, throwing up “everything but your memories,” and walk away with her career intact. Ditto Tucci. He’s slumming here, but he sparks with Cher and seems to be having fun.
Which brings us to Aguilera. She can gyrate like nobody’s business and looks fetching in a sparkly bowler hat, but as energetic as the performance is it never rises above the level of a gifted amateur.
“Burlesque” isn’t trashy enough—remember “Showgirls”?—to be truly memorable. It has no story arc, no dramatic tension, just a lot of bump-and-grind. That’ll be enough for people with a taste for camp but like the art form it is named after the movie is all tease and no follow through.