There is, according to Burlesque, a nightclub on the Sunset Strip that looks like a blend of Cabaret and Moulin Rouge andemploys a full contingent of dancers and musicians in the service of a neo-retro-burlesque-blues program.
Presiding over the craziness within is Tess, a grande dame who also performs occasionally and who could only, under these circumstances, be played by Cher. Entering the scene is a young leather-lunged hopeful from Iowa named Ali, played by Christina Aguilera in her movie-acting debut.
The vibe of this glitzy concoction is more Flashdance than Showgirls, despite prerelease predictions that the film would be a campfest of epic proportions. In fact, it’s more cornball than trashy. Ali hits most of the clichés of the genre: defying Tess’s skepticism by proving her mettle during an impromptu stage number; flirting with the nice-guy bartender (Cam Gigandet, of Twilight) whose home she shares for a while, in a purely platonic way, of course, just until she gets her feet on the ground; and keeping a wary eye on the high roller (Eric Dane, of Grey’s Anatomy) who wants to possess her, because, you see, he takes whatever he likes.
And did we mention that Tess is facing foreclosure on the club in a month’s time? Seriously, you didn’t see that coming? Writer-director Steve Antin has no embarrassment about putting any of this across, which may be why it all feels weirdly innocent, if relentlessly silly.
Stanley Tucci revives his gay assistant from The Devil Wears Prada, Alan Cumming lurks about in an undefined role that might well have been filmed months after everybody else, and Kristen Bell enjoys a few wicked-witch moments as Ali’s main rival. Aguilera, needless to say, belts out her songs as only someone with a very large voice can, and Cher stops the show with an old-fashioned torch song (“You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me”) that is clearly designed as a roof-raiser. (And, by gum, it works.) This is a ridiculous movie, but it gets points for never claiming to be anything else.