As some of you may remember, “Burlesque” wasn’t exactly a hit. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was a total flop, but a #4 opening weekend, a $39 million domestic gross and a 48% on Metacritic aren’t exactly the stats of a successful blockbuster (ed. note: with foreign box office it at least made money). However, today is its home video premiere, and I’m here to tell you it deserves a second chance. Remember when you saw that trailer and said “eh, I’ll wait until the DVD”? Well, this is now your moment.
First and foremost, this movie is fun. Not because it’s awesomely bad, not because it’s a train wreck, but because it’s actually enjoyable to watch. It has its problems, sure, but the casting alone is reason enough to give this a look. Christina Aguilera is not a bad actress, and even if she doesn’t manage a particularly compelling performance, director Steve Antin knows to accentuate what is pretty indisputably compelling about her: her voice. You spend the whole first part of the movie waiting for her to break out into song, though “singing” simply put doesn’t really do justice to the sheer power she gets from those vocal cords. She stops the plot dead in its tracks every time she belts out a tune, in a series of wonderful and indulgent musical numbers that just get even more glittery and bombastic as they roll by.
Of course, that would be a recipe for disaster if it weren’t for the delightful array of supporting roles. Really, the best part about this movie is the casting, across the board. Stanley Tucci seems to be making a career of supporting larger-than-life actresses these days and here reprises his “The Devil Wears Prada” role, though I’m certainly not complaining. He’s funny, his timing is great, and he’s exactly what Cher needs, as for whatever reason Antin (also the screenwriter) felt the need to write a good third of the diva’s part as a series of tearful moments of financial collapse. Thankfully she’s fabulous for the rest of the film, and her Razzie nomination just seems like an uninspired easy jab at an older actress “past her expiration date.”
Kristen Bell is pretty stellar as the jealous, angry alcoholic star of the club that Christina boots off the stage, and her perfectly vicious glaring makes up for the fact that she isn’t given all that much else to do. Meanwhile, one wonders what Alan Cumming is even doing here; he’s entertaining as ever but he doesn’t really serve any purpose and is only on screen for a few minutes. Maybe he’s just there to evoke “Cabaret,” the obvious spiritual ancestor for this somewhat bawdier confection?
And a word about the ubiquitous Cam Gigandet: He’s not great, but he’s convincing and does a pretty decent job keeping up with Aguilera. He’s also everywhere; he was in four films last year, has already had one film come out this year (“The Roommate”) and depending on release dates he could have a five-movie showing in 2011. Despite being in typically weak-link roles, he manages to deliver without any trouble in “Burlesque,” last month’s mediocre thriller, and “Easy A”. Is no one else surprised he hasn’t been cast as a superhero yet? He’s a young, attractive, reasonably talented actor — is that not the rule in Hollywood these days? Anyway, he’s charming as the love interest, and you end up actively rooting for his and Aguilera’s characters to finally get together (even if it’s just because it takes forever).
Finally, the songs are great. Not just contextually or stylistically fitting with the film, or well-executed and well-performed, but simply put they’re entertaining songs. It’s more than a little unfortunate that “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” didn’t manage to grab an Oscar nomination (a Cher performance certainly would have made Sunday’s abysmal Oscarcast a bit more interesting), and “Welcome to Burlesque” is pretty catchy too. Yes, most of the original songs are variations on the same theme, a series of big numbers without much lyrical subtlety; “Welcome to Burlesque,” “Show Me How You Burlesque,” and “Express (Can you feel it? It’s Burlesque)” aren’t exactly the diverse thematic bits and pieces of a Bob Dylan album. But they’re beguiling, they get stuck in your head, and they’re wonderfully staged.
There you have it. Admittedly, the screenplay is horrendous, but the cast seems to have so much fun delivering even the most ridiculous of lines that it works out in the end. The multitude of clichés aren’t exactly camp, despite what the initial intention of Antin may have been, which certainly hurts the film. But the cast does its best to camp it up, and oftentimes that’s enough. It’s better than its abysmal theatrical performance would have you believe and is definitely worth a look on DVD.
Also new to DVD today: “127 Hours” and “Love and Other Drugs.” Check out Spout’s posts on these films from their theatrical runs: