Somewhere on the continuum that connects “Showgirls,” “Glitter,” and drag shows is a place for “Burlesque,” a vanity project from producer Christina Aguilera for pop star and would-be actress Christina Aguilera. That doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining. It just means it is not a good movie. It’s more hallucination than story, but hey, If you think of it as a slightly deranged long music video divathon it can be a lot of fun.
Aguilera plays Ally, a spunky small-town girl who buys a one-way ticket to Los Angeles and find a home at one of those only-in-movies places that is about to go broke but is always packed to capacity because it puts on big-budget musical numbers with expensive (if tiny) costumes and choreography. Oh, and at least one regular customer is a zillionaire (Eric Dane of “Grey’s Anatomy”).
She starts as a waitress under the direction of a friendly bartender (Cam Gigandet of the “Twilight” series, “Easy A”) and talks her way into getting hired as a dancer. The club is owned by Tess (Cher looking so diva-esque she might as well be a drag queen playing Cher) and her ex-husband Vince (Peter Gallagher, looking seedy). Vince wants Tess to take the generous offer from the zillionaire. Even though she really does not have another option (she doesn’t even try to find one), she just keeps on going, attaching bugle beads with a glue gun, counseling a girl with an unexpected pregnancy, and, of course not just creating all the musical numbers but belting out the only songs in the show that are not lip-synched.
And then it turns out that little ex-waitress has what another character refers to as “mutant lungs.” It also turns out that not being good at blending in may be a problem in the chorus, but it’s part of what makes a star.
The story is dumb. The dialogue is intended to be sassy; it’s also dumb. Aguilera cannot act and Cher, who used to be able to (she was hilarious in her most recent film, “Stuck on You” in 2003), has two insurmountable obstacles: her face doesn’t move and her character is supposed to be both imperious and tenderhearted, savvy but clueless. However, Aguilera is indeed a star and the musical numbers are entertaining. They may be sadly chopped up by people who spend a lot of time choreographing dances and then think the audience can’t pay attention to more than one step at a time. But I appreciated the shout-outs to greats like Marilyn Monroe, Billie Holliday, Bob Fosse, and Madonna, and respect Aguilera’s respect for their traditions and for burlesque as well. It is still a lot of fun to see those bugle beads bounce.