movie film review | chris tookey


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  Burlesque Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
4.88 /10
Tess - Cher , Ali - Christina Aguilera
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Directed by: Steven Antin
Written by: Steven Antin

Released: 2010
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 119

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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So bad it’s moderately entertaining, Burlesque is a lesson in how not to put on a musical. Writer-director Steve Antin (best known around Hollywood as a former boyfriend of DreamWorks founder David Geffen) has never done a musical before, and boy does it show.

The choreography looks like a Las Vegas hooker’s attempt to plagiarise Bob Fosse, and is so atrociously edited that you can’t tell if anyone can dance or not. The songs are less memorable than the ones in Nine. The script is like a less intellectual Showgirls.

Casting Christina Aguilera as a simple, innocent country-girl presumably struck Mr Astin as a good idea. She can do the simple part; she once famously inquired where the Cannes Film Festival was held.

But anyone who witnessed her startlingly crude pre-watershed performance in the X Factor final will know that her approach to dance is to wave herself at the camera in as sexually provocative a manner as possible, and her idea of a duet is to shout very loudly in a rival’s face. Super-strident and transparently self-obsessed, she has all the fresh-faced, country-girl innocence of Shane Warne.

The story tells how the world’s least likely ingenue turns around the fortunes of a destitute club in Los Angeles, run by a woman who appears to have siphoned off all the profits into tacky costumes, Botox and cosmetic surgery – that’s Cher, looking like a man in drag, and sounding like one.

The scene where Cher becomes a caring, surrogate mother to Aguilera is a camp collector’s item; it’s clear that neither woman can stand the other.

Our heroine beats off the amorous attentions of an aggressive property developer - Eric Dane, dreadful - and wins the heart of a handsome barman with the soul of a songwriter - Cam Gigandet, worse.

The once-talented but now insufferable Alan Cumming pouts and minces through the film as a singing doorman, and most of his role seems to have ended up on the cutting-room floor – so, in view of what remains on view, it must have been really, really bad.

Stanley Tucci is so spooked by his surroundings that, playing the homosexual wardrobe supervisor who’s Cher’s best friend, he turns in exactly the same performance he gave in The Devil Wears Prada, arching his eyebrows and dispensing pearls of wisdom at the drop of a plastic tiara. He’s Gandalf the Gay.

The revelation is Kristen Bell. Gone is the bland blonde who bored us to tears in When in Rome and You Again. In her place is a dark, demonic, drunken diva who acts like the long-lost love-child of Joan Crawford and Peter Mandelson.

The scenes where this wicked witch tries to sabotage our heroine’s first steps in showbiz are reminiscent of those moments in Strictly Come Dancing when Craig Revel Horwood tries to tell the truth about a celebrity’s missteps and is howled down for doing so. I must say, I liked her.

The venue is amazing. Most of the time, it has the proportions of a tiny basement club. When required, however, it expands to the proportions of the London Palladium.

The film bears very little relation to real-life burlesque. There are no intentional comedians, hardly any striptease and no nudity. I did hear one snarl of “Take it off!” but I fear that remark may have been aimed not at the showgirls, but at the projectionist. It might even have come from me.

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