Singing, dancing, emoting! I enjoyed Burlesque. How to best describe it? Square Rootz Deli on Prospect Street in Fountain Square has a terrific grilled cheese sandwich with provolone and Swiss, pesto, sliced almonds and tomato on grilled multigrain bread. Such a satisfying twist on an American classic. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Burlesque is not that sandwich. Burlesque is a grilled cheese sandwich made of one slice from a pack of Kraft Singles and two slices of Wonder bread. Nothing to brag about, but it tastes good.
Burlesque is cliché on cliché on cliché. The story sounds like it was written in Branson, MO, on a napkin in a Denny's. But it works because it doesn't pretend to be anything more or less than what it is – forgettable, but tasty grilled cheese. The same goes for the song and dance numbers, by the way, although a few numbers seem more like a grilled cheese made with Velveeta rather than Kraft Singles. Extra melty.
Singer Christina Aguilera plays Ali, a small-town girl who heads for the big city and ends up at a rundown burlesque joint. She lands a job as a cocktail waitress with the help of a studly bartender (Cam Gigandet, whose torso gets its close-up twice). She wants to sing and dance, but can't get the approval of Tess (Cher), the co-owner of the club. Why, it takes minutes for her to finally break through!
Ali's fellow performers include pregnant Julianne Hough and jealous tough girl Kristen Bell. Tess' entourage includes wise, world-weary and tart-tongued Gay Best Friend Stanley Tucci and a fretful ex-husband and co-owner (Peter Gallagher). He's worried because if the club doesn't make enough money soon, the bank will take the property! And Eric Dane will buy it and turn it into a high rise!
The story was written by Steve Antin, who also directs. Steve is 5' 8" and appeared in the music video for Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl." Thank you, IMDb.
The movie's main selling point is Christina Aguilera and Cher. I've never paid much attention to Aguilera before. She just seemed like a Madonna wannabe who was trying way too hard to come off as slutty. She had a huge hit song remaking Labelle's "Lady Marmalade" with Lil' Kim, Mya and Pink and looked like a skeevy clown in the video. My main memory of her was from some TV show where she took a great song, "At Last," I think, and smothered it to death as she showed-off how many runs she could do. I actually yelled at the screen, "Just sing the fucking song, you idiot!" Aguilera does some vocal contortions here, but in the context of burlesque, they fit in just fine.
And then there's Cher. After all this time, how great it is to see Cher, still out there, still filled with attitude, still ready to belt one out. She doesn't have a lot to do in the movie, but her presence is enough. Watching the little girl with the big voice paired with a genuine pop culture icon is the best, most gooey part of the grilled cheese sandwich that is Burlesque.