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dir-scr Steven Antin
prd Donald De Line
with Cher, Christina Aguilera, Cam Gigandet, Eric Dane, Stanley Tucci, Kristen Bell, Peter Gallagher, Julianne Hough, Chelsea Traille, Alan Cumming, Dianna Agron, James Brolin
release US 24.Nov.10, UK 17.Dec.10
10/US Screen Gems 1h40
Divas at dawn: Cher and Aguilera
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
It's difficult to imagine a more outrageously camp movie than this glittery romp, and fortunately there's a sense that the cast and crew understand this. By never taking their ludicrous plot seriously, they've made a true guilty pleasure.
Fed up with dead-end Iowa, Ali (Aguilera) heads for Hollywood. Despite having no experience or training, she's sure she can make it as a singer-dancer. After a series of rejections, she stumbles upon the Burlesque Lounge on Sunset, run by jaded diva Tess (Cher) with the help of her long-suffering buddy Sean (Tucci). Ali charms sexy barman Jack (Gigandet) into a barmaid job, while keeping her sights on the stage. And she's also wooed by Marcus (Dane), a developer who's trying to buy the financially strapped club.
Watching Ali's journey from rags to fishnets is thoroughly entertaining. This isn't because it's remotely believable (it isn't), but rather due to the way everyone over-reacts to Aguilera's "surprising" skills as a gyrating dancer and full-throttle singer. Tess' misty-eyed admiration is contrasted with star dancer Nikki (Bell), an alcoholic who glowers at Ali from the wings.
But the film's real star is Tucci, who's able to make everyone around him look terrific. His scenes with Cher snap with improvised life, and Gigandet even shows some spark opposite Tucci (his romantic scenes with Aguilera are pretty limp). There are also some terrific off-handed moments provided by Cumming, Agron and Brolin (yes, Barbra's almost here too!) as the film strains to hold Ali's corny plot strands together: become a star, get the boy, save the club, knock back the villain.
Writer-director Antin isn't much more inventive with the visuals. Every move is gleefully stolen from either Bob Fosse (see Cabaret and Chicago) or Baz Luhrmann (see Moulin Rouge). Jazz hands and finger snapping, garter-belts and bustiers, bowler hats and high heels - they're all here. The only plot-turn too cliched for Antin was 42nd Street's broken leg (here it's a pregnancy). And the most fabulous surprise is that, even with a decent debut performance in which she sings, dances and acts her socks (and everything else) off, Aguilera is upstaged by the veteran. Cher's stripped-down, utterly random number You Haven't Seen the Last of Me is the real show-stopper.
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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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