Just terrible enough to make you wish it was worse, the ersatz Burlesque plays like a four-lane pileup of hoary showbiz clichés and sexless spectacle. It also has Cher.
Christina Aguilera, perhaps looking for a Glitter of her very own in this uncertain late stage of her career, stars as a small-town girl who leaves Iowa and heads for the big, bad city to seek her fortune on the stage. Instead, she discovers a nightclub where an unassuming entrance on the Sunset Strip leads to a lavish interior the size of an airport hangar with more lights and stages than seven Vegas showrooms. Sadly, the movie lacks the daft intensity of Mariah Carey’s autobiographical boondoggle, settling for stock, low-stakes scenarios and feel-good girl-power tropes as blandly chipper as its heroine. Not much of an actress, Aguilera hangs her mouth open a lot and impresses the club’s tough-minded matron (Cher, or whatever’s left of her) with a pluckiness and refusal to take no for an answer that most would find grating.
It was here that the movie lost me, as I could not take my eyes off Cher, her face immobilized by Botox, plastic surgery and god knows what else. Sounds would appear to be emanating from this frozen visage, with lips inflated like collagen zeppelins, but I could not for the life of me see how that’s physically possible. It’s like watching a performance by somebody wearing a rubber Cher Halloween mask.
Questions: Will Eric Dane’s big, bad real-estate developer turn the nightclub into high-rise condos? How much skin can women show in a staggering variety of revealing outfits without coming within a hundred miles of eroticism? How many times is Stanley Tucci going to play the wisecracking gay best friend? And the smiling young African-American spotlight operator—he must stay very late after work every night to run the equipment and nod approvingly whenever Cher feels like singing her internal monologue on the stage of her empty club. What kind of overtime must he get for that?