Conventional plot thwarts fun moments in ‘Burlesque’

Pitchforks: 3 out of 5 Starring: Cher, Stanley Tucci, Christina Aguilera Rating: PG-13 Opens: Nov. 24

Musicals are not for everyone. Really, there is not a single type of movie that is for everyone, but let’s face it — musicals don’t even come close.

Still, there are plenty of musicals out there that the majority has adored (think Disney in the late 1980s and early 1990s, or “Moulin Rouge,” and “The Sound of Music”). You know, stuff with a good story and music that holds up its end of the bargain.

Then we come to the newest tuneful title to come out of Tinseltown, “Burlesque,” starring Christina Aguilera as Ali, a small town girl trying to make it big time in Hollywood. And we’ve already stumbled upon the first problem: Christina Aguilera. As so many people in the film point out so many times, she’s got one hell of a voice, and I don’t disagree with them. Yet, no one in the film ever exclaims, partly because of that pesky fourth wall, and wholly because it’s not true: “My God girl, you can act!”

That’s why there are supporting actors, who, if over the age of 30, do a darn good job making up for the one trick pony. Ali’s love interest is Jack who, surprise, is taken by another girl but wishes he wasn’t. Jack is played by by Cam Gigandet, born in 1982. You probably know him better as James from “Twilight,” the movie that epitomizes back-burner acting.

But that’s why there are the veterans of acting, because, as harsh as it sounds, they’re not in it for their pretty faces anymore, but because their talent has kept them relevant.

Exhibits A and B: Cher as Tess, the owner of the burlesque club where just about the entire film is set, and Stanley Tucci as Sean, the tailor who keeps the costumes looking classy — well, as classy as a burlesque costume can look.

Cher has still got it when it comes to vocals, but the time for her lungs to shine becomes an awkward, forgettable moment. If cut, it would have helped shave off some of the film’s 100 minutes that make up the seemingly longer run time. But Cher’s portrayal of the stubborn, independent owner of a club that’s on the brink of going bankrupt is one of the better aspects of the film. She’s a forceful presence on the screen, managing to keep her own in a cast full of young, gorgeous people.

Tucci proves yet again that his comedic skills are second only to his acting, delivering some of the film’s most witty lines while balancing out the often serious tone of Tess, who, she confesses, would marry Sean if he wasn’t batting for the other team. They’re a cute pair that proves to be the film’s most redeeming quality.

But as for the music, most of it is substandard. The classic songs, such as “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” are just as good as they’ve always been because the burlesque dancers lip sync to them. Not until Ali comes along and is forced to sing when the vocal track gets cut off does the actual music really start — and dies on impact. Burlesque was at its height of popularity during the turn of the century, and once Ali starts singing, the film’s soundtrack morphs into a modern-day Christina Aguilera album. The two time periods don’t mix well.

Then there are the typical plots: save the business that’s worth more in memories than it is in cash from the evil developer; the new girl in Hollywood who goes from zero to hero; the romance that takes too long to develop and almost doesn’t; the bitter veteran hating on the popular new girl who once wasn’t popular. It’s a cornucopia of overdone, worn out plot points, but Cher and Tucci almost save it. Almost.

Reach the reporter at pmelbour@asu.edu


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