Writing a review for Burlesque is an exercise in futility. If you like Cher, or if you love Christina Aguilera, you’ll probably like Burlesque well enough, and your friends may feel sorry for you. If you like musicals, but you don’t like Christina Aguilera or Cher, you’ll probably hate Burlesque because as a musical, it’s crap. As an hour-and-forty-minute Christina Aguilera music video, it’s still crap. But crap that some people probably will enjoy. I’m not familiar with any of these people, but I’m sure they must exist — she’s sold millions of albums, although given sales of her most recent album, they probably don’t exist as much as they once did. I’m also guessing that, after watching Burlesque, many of those hard-core X-tina fans won’t be so hardcore anymore.
Moreover, if you love Kristen Bell, then don’t see Burlesque because you may not love her any longer — she’s a bitch in Burlesque, but a very unconvincing one. If you love Stanley Tucci, he’s phenomenal here in the way that only Stanley Tucci can be phenomenal, which is to say: he can sell a line to a circle. But he’s phenomenal in everything he’s in. Go see another Stanley Tucci movie, like Easy A or even better, Big Night. If you love Cam Gigandet, then what the fuck is wrong with you? If you just love Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows, stare at this picture for two hours instead. In Burlesque, his long greasy hair and eyeglasses cover them up, anyhow.
There’s not a lot of narrative in Burlesque — it’s like “Glee” set in a cabaret bar, only the musical choices are not as good. They awkwardly shoehorn as many musical numbers in as they can by, say, telling Cher, “You forgot to rehearse your number.” “Oh, OK. Well, give me a chair I can straddle, and I’ll do it right here.” Granted, Christina Aguilera is a better singer and performer and has better legs than anyone on “Glee,” but she’s a significantly worse actor. When she sings, you may get goose bumps; when she speaks, you’ll experience a full-body cringe.
Burlesque is your typical small-town girl goes to Los Angeles with a photo of her dead mom in her suitcase and a heart of gold in her chest. She stumbles into The Burlesque Lounge (which is not actually “burlesque” as much as it is a place where heavily costumed women lip sync the older songs that “American Idol” contestants trot out before they’re eliminated). She manipulates her way in, first as a waitress, and later, as a dancer, which is when — after maneuvering herself over a few contrived obstacles, the initial resistance of the Norma Desmond-esque Cher, the bitchy Nikki (Bell) and an evil developer who wants to take over the club— her dreams come true (loud exclamation point). Who doesn’t dream of growing up and dressing like a whore, bathing in glitter, and singing to a room full of assholes? Seriously, people: Even their eyelids are covered in glitter.
If you’re hoping for a milder version of Showgirls, you’re not going to get it here. It wants to be Showgirls, but it lacks the fangs, or the deliciously bad lines. It’s too earnest (“Life is about the choices you make!”) or too embarrassing but not embarrassing enough (“I refuse to be upstaged by a mutant with lungs!”) It lacks the grotesquerie. It lacks the bang-your-head-against-the-wall camp. Nobody dry humps the scenery or fellates a stripper pole. It’s too generic. And though Aguilera sings the hell out of them, the musical numbers are tired, though it is remarkable how well Cher can still sing without the ability to move her face — it’s kind of like watching a ventriloquist without a dummy.
The biggest problem is that Burlesque is simply no goddamn fun. It wants to be a guilty pleasure, but there’s no pleasure in watching it. Just shame. The whole thing is laughable, but not nearly laughable enough. There are much, much better ways to spend $10.
1. Buy a hammer. Knock yourself unconscious.
2. Buy 15 packs of bubble gum. Chew it all at once. Choke to death.
3. Buy 30 pounds of ice. Bathe in ice cubes, freeze your hemoglobin.
4. Buy a crack rock. Smoke it.
5. Buy a hooker a crack rock. Watch her smoke it.
6. Go to Subway. Buy 2 $5 foot longs. See how much you can fit in your mouth at once.
7. Buy a cheap picture frame at Target. Break the glass. Slash your wrist with the shards.
8. Buy two and three quarters gallons of gas. Drink it.
9. Buy four pairs of used underwear on Craigslist.
10. Buy a Jane Austen action figure.
11. Buy a lighter for $2. Light the other $8 on fire.
12. Buy a pair of jelly shoes. Wear them to Thanksgiving dinner.
13. Go see 127 Hours
14. See Morning Glory.
15. See Unstoppable.
16. Go see Love and Other Drugs, write a review titled, “If I Had to Do It Over Again, the 50 Things I’d Rather Do with $10 Than Watch Love and Other Drugs.
17. Buy a pound of pistachios. Eat only the shells.
18. Buy five decks of cards. Play 252 Card Pick-up for two hours.
19. Buy cake ingredients. Bake a cake. Throw it in the trash uneaten.
20. Buy a books of stamps. Affix them all to one postcard with the message, “I bought you 19 stamps. Wish you were here!”
21. Buy ten rolls of pennies. Put them in a jar. Smash the jar over your head.
22. Buy a nail polish kit. Do your nails.
23. Buy 10 Post-It Notepads. Write, “Do not see Burlesque” on every post it. Post them in the lobby of the movie theater.
24. Buy a beautiful Christmas ornament. Give it to a Jewish friend for Christmas.
25. Buy a pack of blank cassette tapes. Wrap the tape around your head and make funny faces.
26. Buy a prepaid phone card. Call a stranger in a foreign country and repeat “no habla ingles” until the time expires.
27. Buy some sewing supplies. Sew your fingers together.
28. Buy a set of wash cloths at Target, use them as toilet paper. Pretend to be rich!
29. Buy a copy of People and a copy of US magazine. Make paper airplanes out of the pictures of Edward and Bella.
30. Buy three boxes of aluminum foil. Wrap your couch in it.
31. Buy a disposable camera. Take pictures of your feet. Trash the camera.
32. Rent the last season of “The X-Files.”
33. Buy a humping USB dog. Laugh and laugh and laugh.
34. Stick a $10 bill in the garbage disposal.
35. Buy two Caramel Macchiatos. Drown yourself.
36. Buy a can of paint. Drink it.
37. Buy a fancy toothbrush. Construct a shiv out of it. Stab yourself in the belly button.
38. Buy a cheap knife. Cut off a finger. Feed it to a dog.
39. Buy a string of Christmas lights. Hang yourself with it.
40. Buy 5 pounds of oranges. Eat the peel.
41. Buy an axe. Sit in a lawn chair in your front yard. Hold the axe. Look menacing.
42. Buy a bottle of malt liquor. Pour one out for Huang Hua, the former Chinese Prime Minister.
43. Buy some bath beads. Swallow them.
44. Buy $10 worth of coat hangers. Hang them all on a tree. If anyone asks why your hanging coat hangers from a tree, say “Merry Christmas” and grunt.
45. Buy 3 sticks of deodorant. Use it all at once.
46. Buy $10 worth of bus tokens. See how lost you can get on public transportation.
47. Go to Kinko’s. Buy $10 worth of photocopies of your ass.
48. Buy a fancy candle. Prop it up on your stomach and light it. See how long you can endure the melting candle wax.
49. Buy a box of condoms. Fill them with helium. See if they’ll float.
50. Invest the $10 in a high yield stock. Wait 40 years. Buy a used car with the profits. Use it to run over the director of Burlesque.