Burlesque Made Boring

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The Spectrum

Grade: C-

It's the oldest story in the book. In fact, it's so old, it borders on embarrassing.

Ali (Christina Aguilera, Entourage), a wholesome, blue-eyed, blonde, small-town girl, goes to Hollywood in order to find fame and fortune. There she faces the impossible dilemma of having to pick between a hotshot city man (Eric Dane, Valentine's Day) and a sweet Kentucky farm boy (Cam Gigandet, Easy A). On top of all that, she has to find a way to convince an aging diva, Tess (Cher, Gentlemen Broncos), that she is worth mentoring.

Poor dear.

When she does finally get her lucky break, we discover that she's also very talented and that this talent is the solution to everyone's problems. How fortunate that she came into their lives when they needed her the most.

Sarcasm aside, Burlesque really is a two hour-long music video. It's like the time Britney and Madonna released a single together, but longer and slightly less desperate.

There are feathers and pearls and rhinestones galore, and you have to admit Cher and Aguilera present in style. Props go to costume designer Michael Kaplan for making burlesque look classy. Aesthetically, at least, the film is pleasing.

But that's just it: back in the day, burlesque shows were never this classy. Tess' "Burlesque Lounge" is an odd cross between a Vegas casino and Hogwarts' Room of Requirement. It seems to miraculously expand to fit dozens of dancers even though the club is so small that it only has one clothing rack backstage for the dancers' costumes.

There's no sex and no nudity, and the film has a meager PG-13 rating. Since when did burlesque clubs promote family values?

This is not to say that Aguilera needed to be resurrected to make this movie realistic, but it would have been nice to see Aguilera and Cher at least try to act. The roles aren't just tailor-made for them; they pretty much are them.

That's not vaudevillian at all; that's MTV.

The film revolves around Ali's desire to make it big in the burlesque business. Kristen Bell (You Again) plays her rival, Nikki, and she has been cast in an antagonistic role, contrary to her reputation. What's even more surprising is that she does it rather well.

Nikki's resentment for Ali slowly festers, and when Ali calls her a drag queen, this resentment only peaks. They must not have a lot of drag queens on the farm Ali grew up on. Yet, this is not the only ridiculous moment in Burlesque; rather, it's a typical one. It just never ends.

Neither of the protagonists can act, but you have to give them one thing; they sure can sing. It is impossible to deny that they are both vocal powerhouses, and the duets between Cher and Aguilera are powerful enough to satisfy both fan bases.

The choreography is neither complex nor interesting enough, and the film appears merely to be a prop to showcase the divas' talents rather than an attempt to test them. The soundtrack is the only thing that saves it.

Bell finally gets to make use of her musical theater major and gives an unexpected performance that will either go unnoticed or land her a guest appearance on Glee.

Hopefully debut director Steve Antin's next film will have more to offer, and Burlesque can be chalked up to a beginner's blunder. If there even is a next film, that is.

E-mail: arts@ubspectrum.com