You could say I like camp films. I'm a massive, unashamed fan of Moulin Rouge and of musical theatre as a whole (you may strike me down now, I couldn't care), and I'm also a fully paid-up member of the burlesque scene fan club- so I must love Burlesque, surely? But wait... Cher? Christina Aguilera? Something must be wrong here. And mark my words, something is very, very wrong here. It's certainly got the glitter and the sequins, but the film feels a lot like they thought that, plus the "wow" factor of Christina Aguilera and Cher being involved was enough to paper over the huge, yawning gaps that are all over the movie. But nothing could hide the fact that the script is terribly cliched, the acting stunted and one-dimensional and the musical set-pieces oddly off-putting. I'm pretty sure they wanted it to be a story of female empowerment, of a young girl finding her voice, but the script is no more than a flimsy vehicle for the songs, and what substance there is just reminded me of Coyote Ugly with less clothes on. Christina Aguilera simply isn't believable as the doe-eyed and naive small-time girl who ends up lost in the impossible and corrupting glamour of the Los Angeles burlesque scene. I think it's probably because she's had almost the whole of her naked body on display everywhere for the last ten or so years anyway - talk about casting against type. Cher is as bad as she usually is, except now she's been given the go-ahead to act pseudo-regal as the boss of the establishment that Aguilera accidentally becomes the star of, which dials up how bad she is even more. The biggest problem for me, in terms of the cast anyway, is Stanley Tucci - an actor I adore in pretty much everything he turns his hand to, who commits attrocities in the name of the script while visibly struggling to inject any kind of heart to the film. Why he said yes to this I will never know. What I fundamentally don't understand is how other commenters on the film who have in the past been quick to lambast Moulin Rouge are so taken by its supposedly self-conscious camp-value and so-bad-its-good-ness. Seriously, do yourself a favour and ignore them. There is no enjoyment to be had in the glib crapness of Burlesque: it is tasteless and painful, and there isn't enough to suggest that its all tongue-in-cheek to redeem it. It is Carbaret without the class, and its woeful inability to channel the real spirit of burlesque makes its title a downright slander. If you want to watch a burlesque film that was released this week, choose On Tour, which is far more accessible, far more engaging and infinitely better in execution. The acting is a world away from this (though that was somewhat inevitable), the script has life and characters feel far more human than the grotesques of Burlesque.
QualityDo I even care? Well no, but credit where it's due, Burlesque looks pretty darn strong. It's lush and rich in clarity, in part due to bold, well-saturated statement colours and excellent black levels. The quality of the transfer works like an added strong stage direction, with the camera work staged well to produce striking images and composition, which that quality adds a pleasant depth to. Detail is good, in foreground, background and in the various larger than life players, and textures lose nothing when relegated to the background, which is always a mark of significant quality. The sound is great as well, which of course it had to be in a musical, mixing studio quality production on the musical numbers (and giving up every flourish and over-ornate warble on Aguilera's voice) with clear ambient levels and the background audio detail that makes a track engaging. But there is only so much a good transfer can do. In certain cases, as with the recently released Legend of the Guardians, an exceptional quality can make a troubled (but not terrible) film a very worthy watch. With Burlesque, I simply can't get over the thought that it's too little, too late: and you can't magnify the quality of something through association if there isn't a base level of charm to work on in the first place.
ExtrasA collection of largely fluffy featurettes - none of which are particularly good, although there is one highlight. The commentary is vastly superior to the film, though it is a little jarring to hear director Steve Antin talk so eloquently and passionately about such a stupid film. Audio Commentary 'Burlesque' Jukebox' (HD, 17 mins) Alternate Opening (HD, 6 mins) Bloopers Reel (HD, 5 mins) Theatrical Trailers (HD) 'How Do You Know,' 'The Tourist,' 'Country Strong,' and 'You Got Served: Beat the World' Featurette: "Burlesque is Back!" (HD, 3 mins) Featurette: "The Performers: The Cast of 'Burlesque'" (HD, 9 mins) Featurette: "Setting the Stage: Production Design & Photography" (HD, 4 mins) Featurette: "Inside the Dressing Room: Creating the Burlesque Look" (HD, 6 mins) Featurette: "The Set List: The Music & Choreography of 'Burlesque'" (HD, 11 mins) BD-Live movieIQ DVD Copy.
Burlesque is available to buy on Blu-ray and DVD now.