“Burlesque” is a tawdry TinselTown amalgam of “Showgirls” and “Glitter.”
Set on a Sunset Boulevard in the almost-bankrupt Burlesque Lounge, it focuses on the relationship between Tess (Cher), the club’s cynical co-owner and resident diva, and an ambitious, nubile naïf from Iowa named Ali Rose (Christina Aguilera), who charms the sensitive, mascara-wearing bartender Jack (Cam Gigandet from “Twilight”) into hiring her as a cocktail waitress and letting her share his apartment. There’s even more backstage melodrama when Georgia (“Dancing With the Stars” winner Jennifer Hough) gets pregnant – making room for Ali’s G-string debut – as boozing Nikki (Kirsten Bell) grows insanely jealous of Ali’s popularity. Meanwhile, Tess’s ex-husband/business partner Vince (Peter Gallagher) is pushing her to sell out to Marcus (Eric Dane), a randy real estate developer determined to build a high-rise tower, while Sean (Stanley Tucci), her gay confidante/stage manager, assures her that somehow things will work out.
Surrounded by scantily clad showgirls, 64 year-old Cher’s first campy number is “Welcome to Burlesque” and, later, she straddles a chair (a la Marlene Dietrich) and sings the anthem-establishing “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me.” Unfortunately, the remainder of the musical numbers is centered on Christina Aguilera, who demonstrates at the outset with “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” that she can belt out a song but certainly cannot act. One yearns in vain for Cher/Aguilera duet. Appearing as the androgynous emcee Alexis, Alan Cumming’s “Cabaret” talent is underutilized.
Director/screenwriter Steve Antin emphasizes the garish extravaganza’s sequins-and-feathers naughtiness, clearly influenced by his sister Robin, creator of the bump-and-grind Pussycat Dolls, with nods to Sally Rand and Lily St. Cyr. But Antin’s characters are disappointingly underwritten and, therefore, quickly become clichéd caricatures, spouting ludicrous lines like “I will not be upstaged by some chick with mutant lungs” and “How many times have I held your head over the toilet while you threw up everything but your memories?”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to10, “Burlesque” is a shimmying, shaking, preposterous 5, emerging as another splashy, sleazy showbiz tale, signifying very little.