Who's In It: Christina Aguilera, Cher, Eric Dane, Stanley Tucci, Cam Gigandet, Kristen Bell, Julianne Hough, Peter Gallagher
The Basics: Small-town girl Christina Aguilera goes to Los Angeles and gets a job as a cocktail waitress in Cher's burlesque nightclub. But what C-Ag really wants is to be up on that stage in a bustier, busting out air-siren-like songs. When the star is fired and tries to sabotage the show, our heroine shows everyone what she can do. Meanwhile, a land developer wants to pay Cher tons of money for the club so he can build a high-rise on top of everybody's dead hopes of stardom. Will she raise the cash to save her place before time runs out? Welcome back, plotline of 1933; you haven't aged a bit.
What's The Deal: Not good enough or moving enough or musically engaging enough to be memorable and not hilariously horrible enough a piece of failed art to qualify as actual camp, this movie falls right down into the worst sinkhole of all, the middling pit of mediocrity and memory failure. Blame it on Steve Antin's trite script, his direction that values "shiny" over everything else, zero forward momentum or suspense over the characters' fate, all the bohemian qualities of the average MBA--no lie, this is a movie where the plot hinges on people understanding how to exploit real estate "air rights" for their own benefit--and, most sad of all, poor Cher's inability to move any part of her face that isn't the mouth. If you're hoping for Showgirls or Glitter, you're going to have to settle for The Hannah Montana Movie.
Even When It's Working It's Not Working: You can't pin much of this failure on Christina Aguilera. In her non-singing moments she can walk and talk at the same time. She's perfectly competent (even as she comes off as more than a little entitled). So the rest of it is pretty much a showcase for her booming vocals. That's the only time the movie comes alive, when it's worshiping her. But that's also where it hits another roadblock. She's not a singer who inspires love. And she's so technically skilled at the kind of million-notes-in-one-syllable style that it's beyond the average person's ability to sing along with her. Your job is to sit still and watch and be super-impressed by her. And that's fine. Just kind of chilly.
Old-School Cher Worshipers, Beware: She may be top-billed but it's not her story. She disappears for long chunks of time and the camera doesn't know how to deal with the cosmetic adjustments she's rewarded herself with over the years. There are moments when she appears to be digital. And face work or no face work, she's cooler than that and deserves better.
But How Are The Songs? Great if you like songs that are all about what it means to be "burlesque." At least three of them, if not more (I tuned out after the third one, honestly.) They welcome you to burlesque, they explain how cool it is to be at the burlesque, they remind you that burlesque is where all your dreams come true, they warn you that there is no smoking inside burlesque, and on and on like that.