Even among some of her most negative critics, Christina Aguilera is agreed to have an unique vocal talent that truly lets her stand out from her painfully-obvious manufactured peers in pop stardom. Unexpectedly, however, that talent eventually led her to a stagnant career and despite much attempt she hasn’t quite managed to come back out on top. So, it struck me as odd when I started seeing trailers for this movie. Not that she was doing a musical, but rather that the whole point of it seemed to act as a showcase of her real, nearly surreal, talent given the average quality of pop music. Seeing as how it’s almost a decade too late, though, it actually comes off as something of a memorial for her career.
A small town singer, Ali (Christina Aguilera), moves to the big city for her chance at stardom where she is enchanted by Burlesque, a glamorous nightclub packed with dancers, sizzling music, and an owner (Cher) in need of a star. Jam-packed with visually stunning musical numbers and an all-star cast featuring Eric Dane, Kristen Bell and Stanley Tucci.
Of course, the highlight of the movie that had people chattering fervently was the co-starring role of one of music’s most prominent divas of all time: Cher. The character, though obviously original to the story, was so blatantly written for Cher that eventually you just expect everybody to simply refer to her as such. Aguilera, in an unexpected simplistic country girl role, managed to truly astound me with her actually decent acting capabilities. Many pop stars have made the questionable transition from trendy idol to aspiring actor, ultimately leading to many to find themselves with a quickly crumbling career. It’s been quite interesting how transparent their manufactured façade of alleged talent can become with even the simplest of movies. Aguilera, however, seems as though she could easily have a future in further movie roles. Maybe it helps that her career stalled before she attempted such a thing.
The rest of the cast is filled out somewhat similarly between Cher and Aguilera as they are both given a pair of male characters that toss them the various plot obstacles. For Ali there’s the unfortunately cliché love triangle with Jack (Cam Gigandet) and Marcus (Eric Dane), while Cher is accompanied by confidant Sean (Stanley Tucci), and vaguely established husband Vince (Peter Gallagher). Jack, Marcus and Peter generally are left to be included solely when the plot calls for them, leading to gaps where it seems odd that Jack doesn’t seem to be present. Oddly, Stanley Tucci stands out even more than Cher or Aguilera as he gets most of the best dialogue throughout the movie and always seems like the most multi-dimensionally charismatic out of the rest of them. I couldn’t help but be overly shocked by this given that I’m most familiar with the actor from his role in THE CORE.
The story itself, although I wasn’t expecting much, was unfortunately incredibly plain and ultimately disappointing. It starts without any proper introduction to Aguilera’s character aside from showing her simplistic origin in which most of the time is dedicated to a daydream. We’re never given much backstory for her, or really get to see her shine outside of the titular plot given that the movie takes absolutely no time in getting her into a burlesque role. As the movie goes on it feels nearly like Cher is supposed to be the main character, until an overly cliché backstabbing-gone-awry gets Aguilera’s character to show off her talent much to the shock of the whole cast of the burlesque show given that it’s established they merely lip-sync. It’s, of course, made pretty blatant that the others lip-sync even before we receive exposition confirming as such due to the singing being obnoxiously drowned out before Aguilera becomes the sole singer. I can only assume it was done this way in order to not only make it clear to the movie’s audience, but possibly even to serve as a jab to those who suggest she dabbles in lipsynching as much as her pop-peers.
Overall, I have to say I was very disappointed with this. Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting much since I don’t really care for such contrived attempts at showing strong female characters by thinking that obscure, yet subdued, perversion serves as some sort of equivalence of feminine progression or even simply “girl power,” but at the very I was expecting a musical that could have a redeeming song or two. That was certainly not found here, as the musical aspect of the movie merely seemed to serve as a montage for scenes that should have been focused on rather than glazed over in favor of unnecessary fluff, such as Cher’s solo act in the middle of the movie. The only song that even came close to being anything near worthwhile, mostly because it was the only one that didn’t serve as a montage, was at the very end to attempt to give a contrived climax – which was severely missing from both the main and the few subplots. It’s pretty easy to understand why the hype surrounding this movie was fairly high leading up to its release, and then fizzled away once it debuted, and that’s why I can only suggest this as a Rental.
Sony jumps on the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack band wagon with Burlesque. Perhaps they’ve done this before in the past and I just missed picking up on it (or I didn’t review it), but this isn’t exactly the type of film that, to me, you would need two copies of. I mean if you have a Blu-ray setup, wouldn’t you want to watch a big, flashy musical in surround sound in the highest possible quality? It’s not exactly something you want to watch on DVD in your laptop at an airport…then again, for me, it’s not a film you want to watch at all. But that’s not the purpose of this Blu-ray portion—we must tackle the release itself and Sony did a pretty admirable job of presenting it here with a standard two-disc Elite Blu-ray case housed under an embossed and foil reflective slipcover.
Video is an AVC encoded 2.40:1 effort and it looks…well, actually it’s moderately underwhelming. The trailers depicted the film has being tons of glint and glam, but in-between the set pieces and song numbers there was a lot of overly soft visuals and shots that just didn’t really impress or wow me in the least. Granted once the promised visuals that the shiny Blu-ray cover represents came to light my eyes perked up as the lighting changed, the image sharpened and it just looked quite spectacular. This isn’t to say the normal visuals weren’t still of near top quality, but there is a definite distinction to be made between the two.
Audio, on the other hand, is pretty much just perfect all around. You expect a musical to be big and loud and that’s just what Burlesque is. Backed by a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix the film is wall-to-wall audio once a musical number starts and even if you don’t really enjoy the movie for what it is, the spread of the mix is still to be respected. Definitely a ton of LFE output and surround sound usage to be had during any one of the big numbers, but also the quieter dialogue driven scenes retain a sense that they aren’t just focused entirely in the front channels.
Extras are a pretty healthy mix and include:
The Burlesque Lounge: Alternate Full Musical Performances!
Burlesque is Back!
The Performers: The Cast of Burlesque
Setting the Stage: Production Design & Performers
Inside the Dressing Room: Creating the Burlesque Look
The Set List: The Music & Choreography of Burlesque
All total you’re looking at about forty minutes of special features plus the commentary…so it’s a pretty nice mixture altogether of extra goodies and it almost makes you sad the film didn’t do better than it did. In the end you’ll only want this disc if you’re a fan of the film; in which case it’s Recommended. Otherwise stick to a Rental.
Burlesque is now available on Blu-ray + DVD and DVD.
Film review by Andrew
Blu-ray review by Zach Demeter