Bob Balaban's dark comic horror about a young boy suspecting his suburban parents to be cannibals
Ali (Christina Aguilera) is a just a small-town girl living in a lonely world, but she's determined to be a star. Could a burlesque club in the city prove her ticket to success? You better believe it.
There's a very simple way to tell whether you might enjoy Burlesque, if you'll bear with me a second. Maybe you've heard of the practice wherein a lady's special area is decorated with sequins or sparkly crystals of the Swarovski type? Well, now you have. Practitioners call it "vajazzle". Now, I would like you to say this word out loud. Vajazzle. If you managed that without cracking a grin, there's no way you should consider seeing Burlesque. If Moulin Rouge was frou-frou French knickers and Showgirls a labial piercing, Burlesque is vajazzle: coy, camp and far too laughable to be sexy.
Plotwise, we're talking your classic Bildungsroman: like Candide, David Copperfield or Pinocchio before her, Ali (Christina Aguilera) has led a sheltered existence but is poised on the brink of a profound voyage of self-discovery. Leaving Small Town USA with only a pocketful of dreams and a suitcase full of mad shoes, she is drawn like a manicured moth with massive hair extensions to the bright lights of The Big City (it doesn't matter which big city), where she meets a magical old woman who lives in an underground cave (Cher).
After some initial scepticism, this hard-nosed subterranean club owner with requisite heart of gold offers to help make all Ali's wide-eyed dreams of shaking her jelly on stage in her pants come true, and in one hilarious scene teaches little orphan Ali how to do the most flamboyant face-full of make-up since Heath Ledger's Joker. Maybe she's born with it, maybe she lost a fight with the Sony Bravia exploding paint advert.
Plot, schmot. All you need to know about Burlesque is that it may (does) contain the following: breathless backstage bitching, dance numbers that play out like a someone pressed fast-forward on a mash-up of all the titillating bits from all Bond movie credits sequences ever, enough outfits made of pearls to shoot oysters straight to the top of the endangered species list, Alan Cumming in guyliner, Cam Gigandet in guyliner, a faceless man-candy dance-troupe in guyliner, Stanley Tucci reprising his Devil Wears Prada male matriarch shtick, some silly plot-business about real estate permits (whatevs), Cher doing the most unintentionally funny "sad song" in musical history, plus the immortal line "I will not be upstaged by some slut with mutant lungs." Phew.
This is pure, grade A, 100% platinum trash and is, naturally, hugely delicious to anyone with even the most under-developed ability to enjoy frivolous camp. Yes, it bears absolutely no resemblance to the historical art of burlesque, but that's like complaining Jurassic Park didn't have enough palaeontology in it.
Enormously daft, but addictive. Like Richard Gere almost sang in Chicago, give 'em a show that's so splendiferous, row after row will crow vociferous, give 'em the old vajazzle dazzle, and they'll never catch wise.
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On Film4: 15 December 2013