It's always a bit worrying when a pop star decides to change direction and head for the silver screen, especially when it's for a musical. Yet unlike her arch nemesis Britney Spears, whose dabbling in the world of acting ended up more like an extended music video, the voice that is Christina Aguilera manages to bring an unforced charm to her first starring role, making 'Burlesque' a surprisingly enjoyable experience.
Ally (Aguilera) is your proverbial small town girl, who is attracted to the big lights of the Burlesque lounge in LA. Just after stepping off the bus from Iowa, she coincidentally walks into the club just as the owner Tess (Cher) is performing her big opening number. Managing to blag her way into a waitressing job with the help of the eyeliner-wearing Jack (Gigandet) and a few daggers from dancer Nikki (Bell), Ally sets about convincing Tess that she really belongs up on stage, shaking her booty and belting out provocative numbers, instead of serving drinks to regular customer Marcus (Dane).
With Tess struggling to keep the club afloat, with her right hand man Seán (Tucci) by her side, will Ally be able to help or will she leave the club, in search of bigger and better things?
'Burlesque' is like a softer version of 'Moulin Rouge' mixed with 'Chicago' - they even added 'Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend' to the song list, probably the most well-known song from 'Moulin Rouge'. However', 'Burlesque' just fails to bring the authenticity that musicals before it have succeeded in creating. When we are first introduced to the club, it's not the down-and-out, shady Burlesque scene it should be but a fantasy side of Burlesque, with an upright audience and a stage set reminiscent of a Vegas show. The place is supposed to be in financial trouble, yet there seems to be no expense spared on costumes, or the amount of dancers needed for that matter.
While the plot is insanely clichéd - Aguilera's character is a small town girl trying to reach stardom and Jack is a piano-playing, song-writing barman - there are still some great performances from Kristen Bell and Stanley Tucci. It's so refreshing to see Bell step out of her comfort zone. Finally she is moving away from playing the goofy, unlucky-in-love singleton. Tucci is his usual elegant self, bringing a touch of class to the film.
I have to admit that Cher and Aguilera have a great chemistry on screen, even if Cher does look like a waxwork figure. She acts as the maternal icon in Ally's life and lands her own solo performance - in the dark, mind.
While it won't rival past musicals with its simplistic storyline, 'Burlesque' is still a beautiful on-screen spectacular that won't fail to impress. A delightful surprise from Camp Aguilera.