Movie review: Cher and Xtina can’t save “Burlesque”

When I heard that Cher and Christina Aguilera were teaming up for a movie musical called Burlesque, I could barely contain my excitement. I assumed– not unreasonably– that the union of these singing divas could only mean one thing: a campy spectacle filled with show-stopping musical sequences.  Visions of cat fights, Bob Mackie gowns and over-the-top vocals compelled me to gather a group of friends and head to the Village East Cinema.

Poster advertising the movie Burlesque in NYC's Soho neighborhood.

"Burlesque" doesn't deliver the camp and drama you'd expect in a film staring Cher and Christina Aguilera.

The 119 minutes I spent watching Burlesque was arduous; the film was bogged down by a clichéd plot, boring dance routines and bad acting. Burlesque received some favorable press reviews, but is sure to disappoint its main audience: fans of Cher, Christina, and musical theater. (Groups that, I might add, have significant overlap).

The title itself is misleading. New York City burlesque consists of women (and a few men) of all shapes and sizes performing humorous strip teases.  In the film, however, burlesque is a cabaret show in which reed-thin dancers perform choreographed moves in lingerie.  The dance scenes had the same impact as watching a Pussycat Dolls video.

The principal stars do not share a duet or any dramatic tension.  As an aging performer and the owner of a Los Angeles burlesque club, Cher quickly begins to respect and mentor Christina, the Iowa-born ingénue. The main villain, played by perky actress Kristen Bell, is a jealous dancer who tries to sabotage Christina.  She’s hardly convincing as a trashy alcoholic, but she doesn’t deserve all of the blame.

The actors must contend with a poorly written script, which includes zingers like, “I don’t want to put any more tequila on your cornflakes!”

The characters are all clichés: Christina is the small-town waitress with Hollywood dreams; Stanley Tucci is the gay best friend and costume designer; Eric Dane is the womanizing mogul. The worst offense is the squandering of Tony Award winner Alan Cumming, who only has a precious few minutes of screen time as the emcee.

Cher does not add any depth to her role.  She’s traded her see-through leotards and feather headdresses for a conservative black pantsuit. The actress is a young 64, so it’s a surprise to see performers and cameras darting around her as she stands motionless on stage.

The highlight of Burlesque is up-and-coming actor Cam Gigandet—or rather, his naked body. The Twilight star appears shirtless, then bottomless, in a romantic interlude with Christina. Unfortunately, the rest of the film did not match this level of excitement.


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About Leslie Koch

I'm a New Yorker with a passion for travel and art. I founded after returning from a year-long backpacking trip around the world. Find me on Twitter at @leslietravel.