DIRECTOR: Steve Antin
STARRING: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Cam Giganet, Stanley Tucci, Eric Dane
FOR most people, the idea of a film starring both Cher and Christina Aguilera is an unspeakable insult to cinema, and, to be fair, most people would be right.
The sort of people who would enjoy seeing such a tacky pairing are also the kind of people that liked “Moonstruck” and harbour a secret love for musical theatre.
I’m going to put it out there: I’m one of those people.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m not going to lie through my keyboard and tell you that Burlesque is a work of cinematic art. Consider this a disclaimer: this film is basically awful.
If you’re a parent and your tweenie daughter is dragging you along then you probably will spend the entire time gnawing at your knuckles. The script may as well have been carved out of a hunk of Cheddar and as for plot, there are less twists and turns than a long dull drive up the M6.
But (and this is a big but) if you loved Chicago and you were a fan of Xtina in her “Dirty” phase, then this film is wrong in all the right places.
The sob story stars with our motherless heroine, Ali, (Aguilera) who has a throaty set of pipes and a dream that she’ll hit the big time if she moves to LA.
She takes a one-way trip from Nowhere, Iowa, to the Sunset Strip where the sight of writhing Burlesque dancers corseted up to the eyeballs is enough to make her take a job as a waitress to get a foot in the door.
Club owner, Tess, (Cher) is secretly fending off the debt collectors and pressure from her ex-husband to sell up. Said ex, Vince, (Peter Gallagher- of Sandy Cohen OC fame) brings in Marcus (Eric Dane, who is surely earning enough money on Grey’s Anatomy without stopping this low), with a financial offer Tess continues to refuse.
In the mean time, Ali nags Tess for a shot on the chorus line and within a matter of scenes Aguilera is warbling solo to rapturous applause as Tess’ all-singing-all-dancing, meal ticket.
Bartender-slash-musician, Jack (Cam Giganent, another OC casualty) plays Ali’s faux-beau, who for the most part is affianced but comes to his senses, allowing their very vanilla love affair to play out in a most old-fashioned manner.
Stanley Tucci plays the same gay side-kick to Cher’s older female mentor role as he did to Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, mincing around with swathes of sequined bustiers draped over his arm.
So, with this totally standard plot on our hands, you’ve got to wonder what gives Burlesque any respectability.
Truth is, the production is fantastic.
The costumes are sublime and a testament to the researchers efforts to making the film as realistically Broadway as can be. Fishnets, ostrich feathers and hold-ups are standard fare with not a corset or wig a touch out of place. But all of this would be wasted without the incredible choreography.
Like her or loathe her, Christina high-kicks her way through West End style numbers like she was born at stage school and a high-calibre cast of supporting actresses flesh out the gaudy Cabaret spectacle.
It’s never going to be a classic, but Aguilera’s screen debut is certainly better than anticipated. For fans of either Cher or the busty pop star, Burlesque is so bad, it’s sort of good.