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Ali is a small-town girl with a big voice who escapes hardship and an uncertain future to follow her dreams to LA. After stumbling upon The Burlesque Lounge, a majestic but ailing theater that is home to an inspired musical revue, Ali lands a job as a cocktail waitress from Tess, the club's proprietor and headliner. Burlesque's outrageous costumes and bold choreography enrapture the young ingenue, who vows to perform there one day.
For more about Burlesque and the Burlesque Blu-ray release, see Burlesque Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 16, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet, Julianne Hough, Alan Cumming
Director: Steve Antin
» See full cast & crew
Burlesque Blu-ray Review
Been there, done that.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 16, 2011
Didn't anyone ever give you a shot in life?
Director Steven Antin's Burlesque might be technically sound and, yes, even a fair bit entertaining here and a mite touching there, but it's incredibly derivative and so lacking in originality that it takes all of five minutes to figure out the entirety of the two-hour film. Take Nine, Chicago, and Coyote Ugly, toss them in a blender, and out will pop Burlesque, a questionable film from the outset not only because of its terribly unoriginal story, but the chances it takes on making leads out of a grandma-aged Cher and a rookie star in her first big role. Fortunately for first-time primetime lead Christina Aguilera, Burlesque asks little more of her than to sing boldly and look pretty, both of which she pulls off without a hitch. Unfortunately for the rest of the film, the trite and predictable plot keeps it from going anywhere or achieving anything beyond drowning in genre cliché. Burlesque has its moments; its sweet by nature and sexy by choice, but there's just nothing of value to make a return trip to this sultry night club worth the effort.
Ali (Aguilera) is a small-town Iowa girl working a dead-end waitressing job in a nothing of a dusty old town diner. She takes off to Los Angeles with with a handful of cash and the hope of living the dream and proving to anyone who will listen that she's got the voice and the moves to be one of the city's premiere performance artists. She stumbles into a struggling nightclub run by a veteran dancer named Tess (Cher) and co-owned by her ex-husband Vince (Peter Gallagher, Sex, Lies and Videotape). She finagles her way into a waitressing job, seizing the opportunity to learn all the dance moves, ready to pounce on any opportunity. When a dancer learns she's pregnant, Ali once again seizes the moment, performs an impromptu audition, and wows Tess and her business associate Sean (Stanley Tucci, Julie & Julia) enough that she lands the gig, much to the dismay of the troubled lead dancer Nikki (Kristen Bell, When in Rome). As Ali cements herself as the star of Burlesque, she slowly but surely develops a personal relationship with her roommate and co-worker, Jack (Cam Gigandet, Easy A).
Really? That's all they could come up with? Granted, that's only a basic first-act overview of what Burlesque has to offer, its starting-out point that's but the set-up for what's to come. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is just as predictable and cliché-riddled as its premise would suggest. No sudden turn of events, no chances, no daring, no nothing but the same-old, same-old tired "small town girl with a big voice and bigger dreams goes to the city on a nickel and a prayer in hopes of finding her destiny." Yawn. It's all well and good; it's a feel-good story of overcoming the odds and making something out of nothing, but the lack of even a hint of originality just kills the movie with every passing frame. At two hours in length, Burlesque overextends its welcome by a good 30 minutes, if not more, just on principle alone. To its credit, there's a fairly good flow to the picture and things don't slow down too terribly much until the start of the third act, but the length only allows for the film to remain firmly entrenched in unoriginality. Burlesque seems to bank on its sultry/sexy feel that's toned-down for a PG-13 audience but that's nevertheless alluring, though by the end of the movie, Christina Aguilera -- who looks fantastic as a down-home everyday girl -- is so caked in makeup and glitter and whatnot that even the film's tantalizing façade falls by the wayside.
Burlesque doesn't quite find the energy of similar pictures; it's not quite a Musical and it's a little more than Coyote Ugly, but it never finds much of a personal identity. Once again it's more the fault of a lazy script that obviously has its heart in the right place but fails to build its characters past the point of cliché and that can't tell this story any differently than it has been told before. Fortunately, the musical numbers are generally entertaining, and boy, can Christian Aguilera ever sing, though she's no doubt performing a duet with a sound engineer. She plays her part with a wide-eyed wonder and, eventually, a self-confidence and playful attitude that endears the character to audiences, but there's simply not enough of a supportive structural or emotional element to really make her efforts matter. Cher is surprisingly good as the motherly figure who's struggling to keep her club afloat. Like Aguilera, she turns in a performance with a fair bit of heart, as hackneyed as that may be and for as generic as the script no doubt is. The remainder of the cast is solid, if not occasionally underused. Cam Gigandet plays the necessary good looking love interest well enough, and supporting actors like Kristen Bell, Eric Dane, and Peter Gallagher are fine in limited roles. The always-entertaining Alan Cumming doesn't get enough screen time, and the venerable Stanley Tucci -- maybe the best character actor in the business today -- is excellent in what might be best described as his The Devil Wears Prada performance version 2.0.
Burlesque Blu-ray, Video Quality
Burlesque isn't as razzle-dazzle as potential viewers might be led to believe by the gaudy and bright posters and advertisements. This is actually a fairly low-lit and somewhat soft movie. Sony's 1080p Blu-ray transfer nevertheless handles the picture's style quite well. Much of the action takes place inside the club where low lighting, shadows, and soft details are the norm. There's simply not much for the transfer to reveal in terms of details and colors; everything is fairly vanilla, but that appears to stay true to the picture's intended visual structure. Detailing improves in those scenes outside the club and away from the dusty old diner where Ali works at the beginning of the movie; even a scene outside in the pouring rain and under overcast conditions, as gray as it may be, delivers more in the way of discernible details than does the average scene inside the club. With that in mind, the transfer appears incredibly faithful to Director Steven Antin's vision. Shadow detail is critical in this film, and Sony's transfer handles blacks with great proficiency. The transfer does manage some bright, sparkly scenes on occasion, but "low key" seems to be the order of the day, which does allow for the film to emphasize its music over its visuals. The image is a little flat by nature and slight banding is evident from time to time, but this is an accomplished transfer from the top-down that might not dazzle viewers, but should instead satisfy film enthusiasts who wish to replicate the theatrical experience at home.
Burlesque Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Burlesque features a dazzling, exuberant, powerful, big, crisp, kicking, and spacious monster of a soundtrack. Use whatever adjective comes to mind, but this one really belts out the energy and still has something left in the tank when the movie comes to an end. Sony's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack will push the best sound systems to their limits with energized music and hard-hitting vocals in every musical tune, and things are just quiet enough in the downtime that the big boys have room to recharge while the center channel handles dialogue like it was made for the movie. Sure the track is obviously jazzed up a bit, but wo cares? It's fun and passionate, an exhilarating listen that's sure to put a smile on listeners's faces even when the movie has them singing the blues. The track also delivers a wonderful spread of city atmospherics; passing cars, honking horns, driving rain, and background music beats coming from a closed-door club all immediately place the listener smack-dab in the middle of Los Angeles. Of course, the track makes excellent use of every speaker to create a seamless 360-degree field of sound during most every segment, both loud and reserved. The low end belts out plenty of accurate and strong but not excessively rumbly or sloppy notes. This is a complete package of a soundtrack, a dazzling listen that's easiy the best part of the Burlesque experience.
Burlesque Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Burlesque features a healthy assortment of extras, including a good audio commentary track and five featurettes.
Burlesque Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Burlesque isn't a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. It's just completely irrelevant. It might be touching, sincere, and even a little funny, but those are qualities of the genre and the clichés through which the film is built, not the results of any imaginative strokes of genuins or bucking of the system on the writers's and director's part. Cher and Christian Aguilera -- along with a very good supporting cast -- make the movie worth a watch, but at two hours it's just too long and even the sex appeal wears off by film's end. It's a movie with its heart in the right place; just don't expect anything new. Sony's Blu-ray release of Burlesque features a fine 1080p transfer, a dazzling lossless soundtrack, and more extras than the film probably deserves. Worth a rental.
Burlesque: Other Editions
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