The old bump and grind receives a squeaky-clean workout in“Burlesque,” a backstage tease-o-rama about life in and out of corsets and garters. Sparkly and smiley and thoroughly goofy (sleepy and dopey make appearances too), the story turns on an Iowan refugee for whom the Big Time means doing the hoochie-coochie in a Los Angeles club. There, where the dancers are dollies with Pilates physiques, the mistress of ceremonies should be Alan Cumming (who shows up now and again, giggling on the sidelines), but turns out to be Cher, trying her darnedest to play older and wiser but without, you know, the wrinkles and gray.
So begins the review in the New York Times. But the critics are mixed, and how! The Newsweek critic raves:
Christina Aguilera can’t act, Cher can’t move her face—and you won’t be able to resist this campy musical. The critic on my left twitched so much during Burlesque, I thought she was having a seizure. The one on my right bolted for the door early. As for me, I just had one question: when can I see it again? Sorry, Harry Potter, but Burlesque is the event of the holiday season, like the drunk aunt who shows up late to Thanksgiving dinner and falls into your mashed potatoes. The acting is almost nonexistent — Cher’s face can’t move because of Botox, and Christina Aguilera’s moves even less (she can’t emote). The audience I saw it with laughed at the serious lines, and I could hear crickets during the jokes. But Burlesque is so bad that it’s good: over-the-top, ridiculous fun; as with a Taylor Swift concert or a stick of Velveeta, you can’t resist the cheese.
Well that’s sort-of a good review. The New York Daily News is more down-to-earth:
How bad does “Burlesque” want to be? After all, any movie that opens with jazz hands, stripper heels and an ambitious ingénue walking out on her waitressing job can’t possibly be aiming for originality. And at first, it seems that director Steve Antin is in on his own joke, playing up the clichés and campiness for all they’re worth. But as the movie drags on — and on — we start to wonder: Did he actually set out to make another “Showgirls”? Or was he really hoping to hit the big time?
And the mighty Rex Reed really puts the knife in:
Trash comes in all forms, but rarely in a sequined G-string. That’s all there is to a brain-dead, cliché-riddled pastiche of old Betty Grable movies called ‘Burlesque.’ This one is strictly for Cher fans who like their campy shtick loud, lewd and ludicrous. But the biggest problem among many is that it’s not her movie. She’s hardly in it. Instead of an excuse to breathe oxygen into the twilight of Cher’s career, it turns out to be a slutty pasteup constructed out of spit and chewing gum to showcase the movie debut of the caterwauling Christina Aguilera…. This movie is so bad that it makes you realize how much you miss ‘Showgirls.’
In Italy we have to wait until February to see this gem, shame. I can’t wait.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.