Tuesday, November 30, 2010

BURLESQUE (2010)

Written & Directed by Steven Antin


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA.  November 29, 2010 1:45PM

The film, "Hello Dolly" was released in 1969 and was a musical based on the very successful theatrical show but the film turned out to be a very expensive flop and combined with another earlier expensive bust, "Dr. Doolittle" (1967), it pretty much put an end to Hollywood producing filmed musical movies.

There were a few musicals made over the years after this but only a handful would be considered modest successes ("Cabaret", "Tommy") but most were hit stage shows that ended up in the cinematic graveyard ("Annie", "The Wiz", "A Chrous Line", "Hair").

After the surprise success of "Chicago", the film of the Broadway show that grossed over three hundred million dollars worldwide and won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2002, the Hollywood musical was reborn.

Now comes "Burlesque", an original musical that is light on substance but heavy on glitter and glamour. The film borrows from several screen musicals from the past but most heavily from "Chicago", from the slick choreography, to the skimpy costumes but mainly by keeping all of musical numbers confined to being performed on a stage because modern audiences don't seem to be comfortable with people just breaking out in song in the middle of the street.

The story begins where we meet Ali (Christina Aguilera), a cute young girl from small town Iowa who decides in the middle of her shift to leave her dead-end waitress job and move to the land of dreams and opportunity, Los Angeles.

Ali arrives in the big city, unsure of what she's going to do, when she stumbles across a club, the Burlesque Lounge where she is mesmerized by these scantily clad young women, not exactly strippers but certainly not much more than dancers, performing musical numbers on stage. Ali knows this is exactly what she was born to do, so she begs the owner of the club for a job but Tess (Cher) is not impressed. Ali befriends Jack (Cam Gigandet), a handsome bartender at the lounge who decides to hire Ali to be a waitress.

The star of the show is Nikki (Kristen Bell), an over confident, bitchy diva with a drinking problem who Ali starts off on the wrong foot with.

Tess has been having financial problems with the club which her ex-husband, Vince (Peter Gallagher) who is part owner, keeps reminding her of but she has Sean (Stanley Tucci), her gay stage manager and confidant to reassure her that everything will work out. Vince's solution is to sell the club to Marcus Gerber (Eric Dane), a real estate investor but Tess refuses.

Ali is finally given an audition but after a rough start, she is able to convince Tess to hire her as a dancer. After Nikki is late again, Tess decides to make Ali the lead performer. Nikki doesn't take the news well, so during Ali's performance, Nikki sabotages the recording that the performers lip-synch to but as Sean begins to lower the curtain, Ali belts out a song and saves the show.

Ali was living in a hotel but after her room is burgled, she finds herself sleeping on Jack's couch. Since Ali thought Jack was gay, she was fine with the arrangement but after she discovers that he is straight and engaged to an actress working in New York, Ali has second thoughts but Jack manages to talk her in to staying.

Ali and Jack are attracted to each other but because of his girlfriend, he doesn't act on it, so Ali begins seeing Marcus, who is also kind of seeing Nikki. Tess needs to come up a lot of money soon or she's going to lose the club, so Ali comes up with a plan to try and save it. Will it work and will Ali and Jack ever get together to dance the night fantastic?

Mr. Antin, an actor, writer and stuntman, has made his first film and while you shouldn't waste any time trying to search for any type of logic but it is good looking and entertaining movie. He has created the perfect fantasy of what Los Angeles would be like if gay men ruled the world.

Cher has returned to the screen after a long absence in which she stars in, surprisingly, her actual first musical. The well-preserved, Oscar-winning actress performs two songs in a part that doesn't really require her to do nothing more than be CHER, but that is perfectly fine with me. She does it very well and I always enjoy watching her.

Ms Aguilera certainly doesn't embarrass herself in her acting debut and it was very wise to make it a musical. Obviously, her strength in the film is when she is singing and dancing but as far as her as an actress, I think I would need to see her performing in a non-musical to be able to form an accurate assessment. I would have completely dismissed Mariah Carey as an actress until she was put in the hands of a director who knew how to draw out a performance from her in her supporting role in "Precious".

Mr. Gigandet, wearing less clothing than all of the girls in the film, is the perfect eye candy, Alan Cumming is completely wasted as the doorman and Mr.Tucci, who I adore, is the saving grace of the movie who adds his charm and comic timing to help elevate "Burlesque" whenever he appears.

"Burlesque" is a fun, breezy, musical romp that requires nothing more from the audience than to put your brain on pause and just sit back and soak up all of the glitzy atmosphere.