Friday, November 27, 2015

Cher faces the music in 'Burlesque'

About the movie
MPAA rating:
Release date:
Kristen Bell; Eric Dane; Peter Gallagher; Cher; Julianne Hough; Cam Gigandet; Stanley Tucci; Christina Aguilera; Alan Cumming
Directed by:
Steve Antin

About 25 years ago, colleagues and contemporaries Cher and Meryl Streep walked out of "Silkwood" with a couple of Oscar nominations.

Streep went on to earn many more, playing women who embraced a relatable, natural condition - plausible human aging.

Cher, on the hand, made "Moonstruck" and then underwent cryogenesis, or something like it, emerging recently to play a caberet owner-performer in "Burlesque."

It's reported that she looks "fabulous," a euphemism to describe a state of preservation achieved via the vigorous application of medicine, make-up, photography, and ostrich feathers.

In this mode, she plays Tess, the tyrannical owner/operator of a burlesque theater where she reluctantly mentors a green girl (Christina Aguilera) with the help of a gay assistant played by Stanley Tucci.

Shades of "The Devil Wears Prada," though in this case we might call it "The Devil Wears Plaster."

Whoa, dude - why so catty?

Because I was on my way to see The Rock in "Faster" when I was assigned to do this instead. I'm a little grumpy. But it's fair to point out that an actress should be able to move her face - it's part of the craft. There's one rather sad moment here when Cher puts a drink to her waxen lips and you can see it's physically difficult for her to sip it.

On the plus side, Cher can still sing, and the two songs she contributes to "Burlesque" show her pipes to be in working order. That goes double for Aguilera, whose voice will shatter glass in an Imax theater.

She plays Allie, an Iowa girl who wants to make it as a singer in L.A. and pesters Tess for a job at the club, where dancers grind hips and lip-sync to updated, high energy versions of classic songs.

Allie gets her chance, of course (the suspense will not kill you), and when a rival (Kristen Bell) cuts the audio feed during her first performance, brave little Allie just starts singing (with what Bell calls her "mutant lungs"). A star is born.

"Who knew you could sing like that?" someone says.

Yeah, who knew Christina Aguilera could sing?

Besides everybody?

Again, the suspense kills no one. The real question is whether Aguilera can act, and yes she can. The perky underdog persona she creates for Allie is winning - bouyant, bubbly, weirdly wholesome.

Allie's more interested in performing than stardom, and by embracing her priorities, "Burlesque" avoids the diva-at-any-cost narcissism that can make these stories so tiresome and off-putting.

The movie, in fact, could have asked Aguilera to do a lot more. "Burlesque" is a collage of five-second takes, so no performance - good or bad - is left on screen for very long.

And the story is intentionally superficial and campy - catfighting showgirls, Tiger Beat subplots. Allie's budding romance with a bartender/songwriter (Cam Gigandet) is strictly for kids.

About what you'd expect with burlesque show that determined to avoid an "R" rating.

Daily News Film Critic
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