Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, April 08, 2011

Soak in the bubbly songfest that is Burlesque

The standards for movie musicals these days are rather high,especially when audiences have been blessed with an abundance of riches in that department over the last decade or so with the likes of Chicago,Hairspray and Dream Girls.

When Burlesque hit the theaters last fall,a ton of critical bricks landed on top of it's debut,crushing it down the box office ladder(the highest rung reached was third place on opening weekend). Altho the movie was considered a clunker,it wasn't bad enough to be deemed the worst of the worst.

After watching it recently via Netflix rental,I have to say that while Burlesque is clearly not the most innovative film in this genre,it's not as awful as you might think.

Don't get me wrong,Burlesque does have it's fair share of flaws. The plot line is straight out of a 1930s musical melodrama,only slapped and squeezed into a modern day setting much like the back-up dancers of the title nightclub are into their stage costumes.

You can pretty much make a checklist of the standard old school musical cliches lined up here-small town girl looking to make her way in the big city? Christina Aquilera, check! Former diva about to lose her small yet beloved nightclub to evil business man? Cher,check!

Catty rival/star of the show on a downward spiral? Kristin Bell, check! Snarky stage manager with not-so secret heart of gold? Stanley Tucci can do this in his sleep,folks. Friendly guy destined to become love interest? Cam Gigandet,come on down! Just like our leading lady Ally finds as she first walks in the door of the Place That Will Change Her Life,everything that's about to happen is right there on stage:

Yet,all of this hokum doesn't detract you from being entertained here. Is Christina Aquilera a great actress? No and to her credit,she's not trying to be. She does know how to give a good line reading and can deliver a nice little zinger when called upon but basically Christina is just playing someone sort of like herself.

That's not a bad thing in a movie like this,especially when Cher gets to over emote in most of her scenes involving bemoaning the financial fate of her business. I love Cher but she seems too smart to really be this dense about her character's situation.

What really matters in a film like this is the music and that is where both ladies shine. Cher has only two numbers,including "Haven't Seen the Last of Me" which won a Golden Globe for Best Song,which leaves Christina doing most of the legwork here.

Since she's proven in her regular music career to have a knack for sultry songs of the past,the old school tunes provided for her on the soundtrack are a perfect fit for her vocal strengths and dancing skills:

"So we shouldn't mind a bad script if the music is worth tapping our toes to,Lady T?" No,not at all. However,when judging something like this,it is best to consider what the story's ultimate purpose is and how well it meets that goal.

Clearly,director/writer Steve Antin is a fan of the classic movie musical and even tho his script had a handful of rewrites from other screenwriters(very much like the studios back in the day did and still do),it's obvious that he intended Burlesque as an homage to those frothy flicks. On that level,it succeeds.

Most of the musicals from that period of time between the Great Depression and WWII were meant to be lighthearted entertainments,giving desperate audiences a couple of hours of relief from reality.

Some were exceptional but most were simple escapist fare and all of them delivered on the popcorn promises made when someone bought a ticket to elsewhere. While the price of a movie ticket has gone up considerably since those days,we do have similar tough times and a movie like Burlesque is merely passing the torch on to another generation that needs the same kind of cinematic succor:



Therefore,if you're in the mood for bit of film fusion that mellows you out after a long hard day of dealing with the real world,Burlesque is as good a choice as any. It may not high art but it's not a terrible time waster at all. Burlesque is more like a slow gin fizz with a cotton candy chaser;it can get a little too sticky sweet at times but this cinematic concoction does carry quite a kick to it also:

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