Burlesque, the gayest movie made since Prince of Tides, opens in theaters today and people are so excited! Cher! Christina Aguilera! But should they be? Let's take a look at the not-so-good reviews that have come pouring in.
Earnestly ersatz down to every spangle, dance move, plot turn, and line of hokum dialogue, Burlesque is a showbiz pic for these American Idol times - a time when we agree to pretend that mediocre mimicry of better artists is good enough to keep us entertained. We agree to pretend that quality is in the eye and ear of the undemanding beholder. We agree that life is a cabaret, that camp trumps criticism, and that the sight of 64-year-old Cher in corset, glitter, and full kabuki make-up is its own reward.
Yikes! Burlesque isn't just bad, it's sociologically bad.
By all rights it should also be a nice fit for Ms. Aguilera, a graduate of "The Mickey Mouse Club" (where she appeared with Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears) and the seasoned music-video star of spectacles like "Dirrty," in which she trampled on poor Walt's grave (and her own bubble-gum persona) by feverishly pumping her hips in peek-a-boo chaps.
Alas, both her moves and her feature-film debut are perversely tame (no spanky-panky here, unlike in "Dirrty"), closer to your grandmother's fan dance than to the neo-burlesque revues that began popping up in the early 1990s
Manohla wants everything dirrty all the time! Did she like Good Night and Good Luck? Yes. But could it have been more dirrty? Yes, of course. Get your head outta the gutter, Dargis!
As much as I love the seductive low rumble that Cher still commands (and I will pay good money to see her in her latest Final Concert Tour, of which I think there have been three thus far), and while I'll take a jolt of Aguilera in the morning over Red Bull every time, any world-class singer knows you don't keep the volume blasting and the beat rocking hard the whole time.
It is a tip they should have shared with their director - one that might have led him to add shadings and nuance, a quiet ballad here and there, a moment or two with no spangle-y things to distract you. But no, "Burlesque" is top-heavy from start to finish. Maybe that's what you do when you have nothing new to say.
Obviously everyone who was going to see this movie before the reviews came out is still going to see it after reading the reviews, because we are a sad and self-torturing bunch. But it would have been nice if the film had been blessed with a little cred. Oh well.
And hey! A few critics actually did like the damn thing. Critics in places like... San Francisco. Duhhhh. Mick LaSalle (you'd have to be named Mick LaSalle to write a review of Burlesque for a San Francisco newspaper) writes in his Chronicle review:
"Burlesque" is irresistible from its first minutes, and over time it creates a whole atmosphere, not only onscreen but within the audience. It's big, perfectly cast and entertaining in every way, but more than that it feels like a generous public event. See it with other people. See it with a crowd.
Girl, we gonna.