Throughout the past memorable years, we have had many musicals presented to us. Some in high fashion and some in lesser fashion but I won’t dwell on the past, I’ll just mention a few of them in case you were lost on stage behind the curtain, then I will concentrate on the latest edition in the musical field.
Back in 1972, Liza Minelli stared in “Caberet”, then it was followed up with Moulin Rouge in 2001 staring Evan McGregor (Star Wars 3:The Revenge of the Sith”) in 2001, with a nice 15 track soundtrack, and now enter the present. Another wonderfully choreographed musical. This is “Burlesque” and stars the “Moonstruck” lady herself, Cher and making her film debut, singer Christina Aguilera.
The story commences in an Iowa town where me are first introduced to the film’s main lead, Ali Rose, played by Christina Aguilera. Ali, is just a rural diner waitress, but her real interest lies in the entertainment industry. I can’t imagine no one wanting to wait tables the rest of their lives but, hey, to each their own. Ali packs her bags and heads to Los Angles and comes across this place called “The Burlesque Lounge” where Tess (Cher) is the proprietor as well as a retired dancer. Ali takes it upon her self to serve cocktails just to get her foot in the door. This is because Tess wants real dancers and singers.
Ali really tries, with lots of failure, to convince Tess to hire her as a dancer and a singer with a real voice. Ali is totally intrigued by Tess singing the title song. Cher is wonderful actress and singer so she can do no wrong in either of these categories. She is no totally captured by the outlay of the lounge, singers and dancers on stage and she really wants to be a part of the act. Ali befriends a bartender named Jack (Cam Gigandet from “Twilight”) and that puts her on Tess’ good side. However even after Ali goes backstage and encounters Tess and mentions she has a real knack for the business and her actions can speak louder than words. But Tess still stands her ground stating they are not hiring any more dancers and instructs all to get into their costumes for an upcoming performance.
Well guess what, Ali takes matters in her own hands after approaching stage manager Sean, played by Stanley Tucci who also told her the lounge is not hiring at this time but she can assist Jack in his closing duties. She does assist him but unsurprising, she auditions for the show and of course is hired on the spot. The difference, everybody is lip syncing where Ali gets up on stage and opens her pipes for real. Here she meets her rival, Nikki (Kristen Bell from “When in Rome” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) who thinks she owns the stage but is always showing up late and drunk. Ali is her new replacement and horns lock but no chick fights, darn it. Kristen’s character is worth seeing alone. It reminds me of a Queen song “Jealously”.
During the midst of this drama. Ali and Jack start a love affair and then is there Ali learns the lounge is up for sale if they can’t catch up their mortgage. Because lurking in the background is Mr. smooth business man Marcus Gerber, played by Eric Dane from “Grey’s Anatomy who is wanting to buy the lounge from Tess and her husband, played by Peter Gallager and the air above it for his own selfish reasons. But wait, there is Ali and her vocal pipes to the rescue.The crowd pours in and things start to look up. But dishonest Marcus isn’t done yet. He tries to buy Ali’s love and she quickly learns of his evil intentions and does some private eye work of her own to try to save the lounge.
The singing the dancing and the choreography and continuity is finely shot. One thing that kind of struck me funny was a scene with Sean in bed alone saying goodbye to his overnight guest. But he got his name wrong all the time. The scene was tactfully shot or nicely edited. Then there is a scene when Jack and Ali sharing Jacks’ apartment arguing over who gets the bedroom. Jack shows Ali where he keeps his snacks so she will come out and possible share the bed. Some of that I though was over the top but it seemed to work the female screening audience. Hey, it’s a chick flick and a dude fest of a different kind.
As a summary, I thought Alan Cumming as the host of the lounge was great if not a little under used. Julianne Hough as Ali’s dancer friend was great. Stanley Tucci, as always is funny with just his actions. I credit all this to director/writer Steve Antin and producer Donald Deline. The film is visually stunning and the costumes were tailored for each performer. I imagine that might show up in the best costume designer part of the Grammys next spring. The script was lacking a little but what we really want to see is great dancing and singing and the main character, Ali, does not disappoint. Although I though the soundtrack in the film was some what distorted,Cher looks fabulous for being around a while. Surgery does wonders. And if you thoroughly enjoy a tour de force film with incredible characterizations and a visually stunning musical film, Steven Antin’s “Burlesque” is for you. And as far as I know, this is the only musical presented to us this year.
And it is for you on Thanksgiving Day when it comes to us in wide release. The film is rated PG-13, and runs a tad bit over two hours. The RCA soundtrack has 10 tracks in which Christina Aguilera contributes eight and Cher fills in the other two. Christophe Beck takes responsibility for the music. The moral to this story is every opportunity has a shelf life and life is about choices you make.
By Hustlin’ Bob Higgins 4 stars