Burlesque is a welcome reminder that musicals needn’t be original in order to be pretty damn entertaining. But it does help if they’re gay-friendly.
Christina Aguilera plays the small town girl in pursuit of her musical dreams in the big bad city. Cher is the strong-willed, fiercely proud co-owner of a burlesque club on the brink of financial ruin. Will each woman somehow be the answer to the other’s prayers? You don’t have to be the screenwriter to figure that one out, but it’s inconsequential anyway.
Despite an embarrassing and unnecessary opening scene, Burlesque unexpectedly soars with its Broadway-esque production numbers, glitzy costumes, bitchy, witty dialogue, eye candy for both sexes, and a talented cast clearly having fun with the material.
Aguilera, in her on-screen debut, is perfect for this genre: an excellent singer who can act, as opposed to an actor trying to sing. It feels like Cher is essentially playing herself, but effortlessly commands the screen in every scene she appears; and her chemistry with always reliable, charismatic scene-stealer Stanley Tucci is genuinely touching and hilarious.
Kristen Bell and Eric Dane are the closest things to villains here; she being the Burlesque Lounge’s booze-hound, tantrum-throwing diva, and he the wealthy businessman determined to buy the club. Again, not the most original of characters, but the actors admirably do what they can with their roles and look good doing it. Heart-throb in the making Cam Gigandet fairs much better as a sweet, sensitive, sexy, song-writing bartender who befriends Aguillera. Kudos to director/screenwriter Steve Antin for having the actor shirtless on more than one occasion. That alone is worth the price of admission. *sigh*
As for the songs, Burlesque’s infectious and Oscar-worthy score, including a powerhouse ballad for each of the leads, but oddly no duet between them, is energetic and filled with enough drama to send lip-synching drag queens into a feeding frenzy. And isn’t that the real indicator of a successful musical?