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Burlesque: We've heard this rags-to-diva song before

2 out of 4 stars


Falling in the pillowy cleavage between mildly awful and slightly entertaining, Burlesque is a clichéd rags-to-diva story that culminates in a series of Christina Aguilera videos.

Aguilera announces her big-screen debut in the opening sequence, when, as an Iowa waitress, Ali, she slips a coin into a jukebox, puts a foot on a bar chair and starts belting out Etta James's Something's Got a Hold on Me. She has a pair of giant lungs waiting to take a mighty suck from the great bong of stardom.

Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles, Ali wanders into a time-warp dive known as the Burlesque Lounge, where she sees her onstage future. Apparently, it's a drag revue, with heavily made-up dancers in sparkly lingerie striking poses and lip-synching to old tunes.

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There's even a stone-faced Cher impersonator named Tess (who's actually played by Cher). But here's director-writer Steve Antin's ingenious innovation: The performers are, improbably, young women.

Otherwise, Burlesque steals liberally from Cabaret: the Weimar oom-pah music playing when Ali first enters the club, Alan Cumming as the Joel Grey-like emcee, and male bartenders (including Ali's love interest, Cam Gigandet) dressed in Sally Bowles costumes.

Substituting for the looming Nazi threat is Eric Dane as a suave real-estate agent trying to buy the indebted club. Can Ali overcome her back-stabbing rival, Nikki (Kristen Bell)? And can Tess and her gay pillar of support, Sean (Stanley Tucci), save their club? Could anyone possibly care? The important thing is each setback provides another opportunity for Aguilera (and, occasionally, Cher) to step in the spotlight and wail.


  • Written and directed by Steve Antin
  • Starring Christina Aguilera, Cher, Stanley Tucci and Kristen Bell
  • Classification: PG
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About the Author
Film critic

Liam Lacey is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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