There's a lot of Cher stuff to talk about and I'd love to cover all the press appearances she's done, print and TV, for this movie. But that will have to wait until next week. The pressing question now is: how was Burlesque, which opened the day before Thanksgiving competing against Harry Potter (saw it: loved it), the new Disney movie Tangled and the superhero movie Meagamind. Burlesque earned a respectable #4 spot, earning $17 million in its opening holiday weekend.
But the reviews have been vicious. I slogged through about 15 to 20 of them before seeing the movie. I was disheartened. You can read all the reviews aggregated here: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/burlesque/. There are over 100 if you're masochistic enough to read them all, go for it. I think I read enough to get the gist of their arguments. The average aggregate review was 4 out of 10.
Myself, I didn't think it was all that bad. I kind of enjoyed it and plan to see it again, something I didn't do with Stuck on You or Faithful. I mean I have come to accept it for what it is: a star-vehicle movie with music for Christina Aquilera. I think if they hadn't opened the movie on Thanksgiving (like it was an Oscar contender), if it was released say in the summer and not billed as "a musical", it may have been accepted as a kind of fluffy, feel-good movie.
It's not a musical. It's just not. It's a movie with music. Musicals are more integrated with their music. Musicals have choruses, overtures, they speak directly to you through musical asides. This movie just doesn't fit right into that genre. Yeah, there's singing in it...
But let's talk about the bad reviews. Amazingly, they most entirely spare Cher of any criticism. They roast Steve Antin mostly, his direction and his script and occasionally jab at Aquilera's acting. The reviews are so angry, you get the feeling they're particularly out to bash Antin's big-budget first film for grievances that exist behind the content of the movie, to cut down the ambitions created from all the pre-publicity. Who knows? But here is the gist of it:
- "Going to See Burlesque? Snap Out of It (Rex Reed): "a cliche-riddled pastiche of old Betty Grable movies"
- AP Review: "a shameless vehicle for Christina Aqilera", "plays like an extended version of the "Lady Marmalade video"
- The Hollywood Reporter: "The worst served is Alan Cumming. Did his role wind up on the cutting-room floor?"
- Variety: "an overwrought, underwritten hootchy-kootchy turner that desperately wants to be Cabaret but lacks the edge and historical context to pull it off"..."the acting-challenged pop star Christina Aquilera...the least developed of all these characters...a shortcoming, considering how much Tucci and Cher are able to do with their minor roles."
- USA Today: "Scanty story line hobbles Aquilera, Cher..."
- NJ.com: "Fifty-odd years ago, Tallulah Bankhead starred in a revival of "A Streetcar Named Desire"--a production so crammed full of camp that it was said straight men were struck gay simply passing the theater. Burlesque may have the reverse effect." (bitchy!) "The whole thing's so safe, so straight, so completely anti-fabulous it could put Elton John in gray flannel."
- The New York Times: "the old bump and grind receives a squeaky-clean workout...", "Steven Antin hasn't a clue what real life looks like..." "sexless"
- The Arizona Republic: "not interesting enough to be a disaster."
- The Washington Post: "the film's chief flaw, which is Antin's penchant for a constantly moving camera and whipsaw editing. There must be good dancing in Burlesque but too much of it gets lost in a Cuisinarted welter of swish pans and jump cuts....Alan Cumming is shamefully underused."
- Entertainment Weekly: "hokum dialogue", "a crockpot-stew of leftovers...eroticism is safely off the table...synthetic spectacle operated with a newbie's licence by first-time feature writer-director Antin."
- The Detroit News: "Every Thanksgiving needs a turkey...the groaner of a musical that's part Glitter, part Cabaret, part Showgirls and all fowl....the movie is a dull slog...no pizzazz...never lets Burlesque become the bawdy romp it deserves to be."
- Village Voice: "montages of body parts...no sense of how the dancers are moving through space."
- New York Post: "curiously unsexy musical."
- Yahoo!: "It's entertaining enough, like watching a celebrity workout film with a plot."
- Time: "It's frivolous fun...a middle-of-the-road musical...the numbers are lively but produced no urge to sing in the shower."
- Chicago Sun Times: "the story is dumb. The dialogue is intended to be sassy; it's also dumb."
- MSN Movies: "While it will be impossible to determine which picture wins the title of Most Aggressively Insubstantial Holiday Entertainment of 2010 until Yogi Bear gets its day in court...the original songs are serviceable, nothing more."
- Chicago Tribune: "corn syrup diguised as dialogue."
My responses to this: I will agree the movie is more like a long music video (a sign of the times) and I completely agree that Alan Cumming should have been entirely cut or used. I agree the movie was sexless (even when it was supposed to be about sex) and is a far cry from an art piece. However, the dialogue wasn't as laughable as I was lead to believe and Christina did a fine job. She did fine.
And although they hated the movie, Cher gets some sweet shout outs as follows:
- The Hollywood Reporter: "Note to Cher: You still look fabulous."
- Variety: Cher "soon reminds us of her gifts as both siren and star, socking over the movie's lone ballad in what could have been a throwaway scene."
- USA Today: "Cher's stoic-but-thunderous delivery is still mesmerizing."
- The Washington Post: "Cher can be counted on to deliver the most poignant and funny moments...Cher's "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" lands with such powerful force...the song is...a mirror image of the resilience, autonomy and sheer chops she has come to represent."
- Entertainment Weekly: "the sight of 64-year-old Cher in corset, glitter and full kabuki make-up is its own reward."
- The Detroit News: "It is good, however, to see Cher back on screen and she plays the role...with the right amount of self-knowing."
- New York Post: "Though she's absent for long periods, Burlesque belongs to Cher."
- San Francisco Chronicle: Cher's "wonderful in this...we're seeing some original and very showbiz variety of a great woman."
- The Boston Globe: "Alongside a star like Cher, Aquilera no longer exists. As it turns out, that face of Cher's remains a peerless instrument...it belongs to a wise woman with a performer's heavy soul...if you cut Cher, she'd bleed showbiz." In "Welcome to Burlesque": "she rises from piles of dancers like lipstick."
- The LA Times: "I love the seductive low rumble that Cher still commands."
- The Philly Enquirer: "Cher's a damn good actress. Too bad Antin's script gives her few opportunities to show it."
- New York Star Tribune: "her pipes are as good as ever."
Interesting, according to votes on Rotten Tomatoes, 80% of the audiences liked it.I saw the movie with my mother-in-law (who had heard bad reviews in Kansas City) and my husband. They both said they loved it. John's Aunt Carty said she loved it too and planned to buy it when it came out. The two people sitting behind us stayed through the credits and when the lights came on said "that was great!"
Afterwards, I really pressed my husband about his positve review. I felt he was pre-determined to like the movie on my account (and I think Cher has grown on him) so for hours I challenged his assessment with the claims of the bad reviewers. He eventually said, "Look, it's no Moulin Rouge. But it's better than Grease 2 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." I did get him to admit the musical numbers could have been shot better so we could see the whole composition of the dances and that the movie lacked sexiness, except for the men (interestingly the only nudity was the butt of the leading man). He also said it was no wonder the club was losing money considering the production values were so high and the ticket price was only $20. But he said comparing the movie to Cabaret was highly unfair because the source material for Cabaret was political. "It is a fluffy premise," he said "but the let's save the theater/club story is a classic one and easy to root for. It's just fun."
In the end, I agree with him and feel the reviews are overblown. The movie is no majestic Moulin Rouge but it doesn't deserve to be raked over the proverbial coals for sucking either. I think it will make its money word-of-mouth: dancers, young adults, and seniors (according to my poll) will all most likely enjoy it.
I've only seen the movie once, but I did notice one instance of Cher Tapping (see Cher Zine 1 for a full review of Cher Tapping in her movies)...when she was in the bathroom scene hugging Georgia. Cher also made me tear up during her crying scene and I loved the makeup story scene Cher wrote herself.