With a trailer that evokes comparisons to “Showgirls,” I can’t say I had high hopes for the new film “Burlesque.”
Yet somewhere in this two-hour campy homage to the Golden Age of musicals, I found the film won me over with its old-fashioned and rather cornball simplicity, as well as some nice musical numbers built around Christina Aguilera and Cher.
Aguilera plays Ali, an Iowa farm girl who heads to Los Angeles to become a star. She takes a job in a rundown burlesque club on the Sunset Strip. Eventually she wins over the club’s owner, a former dancer named Tess (Cher), who is faced with the prospect of losing her business.
As Ali’s star begins to rise, Tess sees her newest singer/dancer as the ticket to turning things around and keeping the club.
If the script sounds familiar, then you’ve probably seen “Showgirls” or any other small-town girl who dreams of the big time film ever made. Writer/director Steve Antin’s screenplay doesn’t sway far from formula, delivering perhaps one of the most tepid films about a burlesque club in movie history. Even the antagonists seem tame, including a rival dancer played by Kristen Bell (who continues to mount a career resume loaded with bad performances).
But what “Burlesque” does have is some enjoyable razzle dazzle musical numbers that play to the strengths of Aguilera and Cher. In her first starring role, Aguilera is actually better than expected. Her vocals, which have always had a jazzy, blues quality, fit the material like a glove, allowing Aguilera to do what she does best: sing and dance.
Cher is also good in her first film in six years. She plays the mentor to perfection and even gets a musical number of her own (although it does feel wedged into the movie), showing that the 64-year-old entertainer still has a little left in the tank. Cher also has great chemistry with Stanley Tucci, who plays the club’s gay costume designer.
It all adds up to a film that will probably be dismissed by many. However, if you are a sucker for musicals, like I am, you might just find this to be the ideal holiday guilty pleasure.
Also in theaters
While “Burlesque” keeps it simple, another new film, “Love and Other Drugs” (C-), tries too hard to be something more than it really is. Part romantic comedy, part satire, part disease flick, this is a film that can’t seem to decide what it wants to be, and ultimately fails despite two pretty likable leads.
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Jamie, a fast-talking ladies man who takes a job as a pharmaceutical salesman. He meets Maggie (Anne Hathaway), a free-spirited young lady who sees right through all of Jamie’s fast-talking ways - only making Jamie more interested.
Before long, Jamie and Maggie find themselves deep in a relationship. But complications mount - including Jamie trying to deal with Maggie’s fight with Parkinson’s - and the relationship becomes strained, with both Jamie and Maggie re-evaluating the priorities in their respective lives.
If “Love and Other Drugs” had just focused on Jamie and Maggie’s relationship, I think it could have worked. Gyllenhaal and Hathaway have really nice chemistry, and make a very believable couple.
Unfortunately, the film shifts awkwardly between a romantic comedy and a satire of the pharmaceutical industry before evolving into a final act that wants to be somber, only to be undermined by comedic moments that probably wouldn’t work in a slapstick comedy, let alone a film that wants to be taken seriously.
It never quite works, making “Love and Other Drugs” a movie that ultimately disappoints.
“Love and Other Drugs” is rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, and some drug material, and is now playing at the Great Escape 12 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.