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Ali Rose never had a lot going for her as a kid—her dad ran off and her mom died. But now that she's grown, she's ready to make her mark. So she quits her small-town Iowa barkeep job, gathers together what little cash she has and boards a bus headed for Hollywood.
Unfortunately, Sunset Boulevard doesn't exactly welcome the star-struck girl with open arms. She's just another pretty blonde on a street full of pretty blondes. But then the neon shimmer of a burlesque club catches her eye. And everything changes.
Garter belts, bustiers, thigh-high stockings and sparkly g-strings. This is a part of the world, a colorful if somewhat shady side of performing that Ali has never imagined before. She wrangles a job serving drinks in the place and starts studying the performers. Each long-legged step, wrist flick and hip thrust becomes her passion.
The club's owner, Tess, tries to smile at the young wannabe's enthusiasm, but she just can't see this girl ever making it up on the stage. And she says so. Emphatically. Of course, words won't dampen Ali's spirit. She just needs the right chance to prove she has what it takes. And she knows she has a secret weapon: All the other girls lip-sync to the tracks as they strut and shimmy. Ali can sing.
Forget that. She can wail.
Even though Burlesque's relationships and lifestyles don't generally fall into the realm of wise or healthy, the movie does prompt viewers to seek out and rely on the loving support of good friends. The club's barkeeper, Jack, is encouraged to express his true feelings of love to Ali, rather than keeping them bottled up inside.
Never mind the PG-13 rating. This film has a lot of exposed flesh on display. The young and shapely dancers appear in all manner of formfitting and skin-revealing costumes—ranging from see-through lace to bra-and-garter getups to zippered dominatrix ensembles. The camera ogles as the girls powder and boost their breasts, strip out of flimsy wraps and seductively shake their bodies. Neither is the lens shy about swooping in to "admire" choreographed spread-eagles, sensual sashaying and sexualized backside-slapping.
Ali does a fan dance striptease that ends with her completely naked, her critical bits of anatomy (partially) covered only by stage props.
Outside the club, Ali spends screen time in her apartment in various stages of undress, too. The camera regularly eyes her bare legs or spilling cleavage. After her apartment gets ransacked, Ali moves in with Jack (initially thinking that he's gay). Then, when he and Ali return from a wedding they start a little playful flirting: He walks repeatedly to and from his bedroom—each time wearing less and less until he's fully naked. The camera watches from the rear and the front, his genitals covered only by bits of scenery or a small box of cookies. The two embrace and passionately kiss. And sex is later implied by them lying draped over each other (not entirely under a strategically placed sheet). Ali reports, "It's official, you're definitely not gay."
Ali implies that lead dancer Nikki is actually a man dressed in drag. Tess' good friend and all-around-sidekick Sean is reported to be gay—and one scene features him naked in bed with his gay lover at the bedroom door. Before even exchanging names, the two talk of their encounter the night before. At one point, Sean is called "Mr. One Night Stand." And Tess and Sean speak of their own one-night sexual encounter.
Tess smashes a car window with a tire iron after the female driver tells her she had slept with Tess' husband.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word and close to 10 s-words. Other profanities includes about 20 collective uses of "a‑‑," "h‑‑‑" and "b‑‑ch." Jesus' and God's names are misused 20 or so times total. (God's name is combined a half-dozen times with "d‑‑n"). Rough slang is used for male and female sexual organs.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Sean chain-smokes cigarettes. Nikki also smokes and is something of an alcoholic. She regularly tosses back shots or glasses of alcohol. In fact, the lion's share of the movie's scenes take place in the burlesque club where patrons and dancers (including Tess and Ali) are often drinking.
Wedding guests drink, too. And a private party sports a table full of champagne bottles and glasses. Jack gets drunk at the wedding, after which he and Ali stagger back into their apartment. Nikki drives while drunk.
Other Negative Elements
Ali's old boss owes her money, so she just takes the cash from his bar's register. One of the club's dancers gets violently ill in a bathroom stall.
I'm sure that when the idea for Burlesque was first scratched out on the back of a cocktail napkin or scrap of yellow pad, it must have held a certain magic for a Hollywood system that's driven mad by glitz, glamour and sex appeal. Because there's plenty of potential in the concept of Christina Aguilera belting out show-stopping five-octave songs while encircled by a stage full of beautiful dancers, flashing lights and jazzy beats.
Just the thought of the eye-catching movie trailers and viral YouTube clips that combination could create probably got the bean counters clawing for their checkbooks. Add pop icon Cher and fashion the flick as a sort of comeback vehicle for her, too, and Burlesque couldn't lose, right?
No one would try to convince you that a movie called Burlesque might be chaste. And, as you've just read, it most certainly isn't. But even without factoring in the morality of it all, things don't always work out the way napkin scratchings might predict. This pic's failings go well beyond the risqué winks and garter belt-clad two-step of a cabaret show. The weakly filmed musical numbers here are little more than a naked rip-off (and I don't use that phrase lightly) of past Bob Fosse fare. And offstage moments are just as sleazy, campy and painfully self-conscious. Even former Academy Award-winner Cher's screen time feels as stiff as her overly anesthetized too-young-for-the-history-she's-had features.
Yes, Aguilera's voice is big. But even that is quickly overwhelmed by the tepid acting, an eye-rollingly bad script and the blinding glitter of about a million rhinestone-enhanced pelvic thrusts and bustier bumps.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Cher as Tess; Christina Aguilera as Ali; Eric Dane as Marcus; Cam Gigandet as Jack; Stanley Tucci as Sean; Kristen Bell as Nikki
Steve Antin ( )
November 24, 2010
March 1, 2011