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Burlesque DVD Review

Burlesque (2010) movie poster Burlesque

Theatrical Release: November 24, 2010 / Running Time: 119 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Writer/Director: Steven Antin

Cast: Cher (Tess), Christina Aguilera (Alice "Ali" Rose), Eric Dane (Marcus Gerber), Cam Gigandet (Jack Miller), Julianne Hough (Georgia), Alan Cumming (Alexis), Peter Gallagher (Vince Scali), Kristen Bell (Nikki), Stanley Tucci (Sean), Dianna Agron (Natalie), Glynn Turman (Harold Saint), David Walton (Mark the DJ), Terrence Jenkins (Dave), Chelsea Traille (Coco), Tanee McCall (Scarlett), Tyne Stecklein (Jesse), Paula Van Oppen (Anna), Isabella Hoffman (Loretta), James Brolin (Mr. Anderson), Stephen Lee (Dwight)

Songs: "Something's Got a Hold on Me", "Welcome to Burlesque", "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend (Swing Cat Mix)", "Long John Blues", "Tough Lover", "But I Am a Good Girl (From Burlesque)", "Guy What Takes His Time", "Express", "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me", "Bound to You", "Show Me How You Burlesque", "The Beautiful People (From Burlesque)" / Full Music List

Buy Burlesque from Amazon.com: DVD • Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack • Instant Video


Solo music careers lead to acting opportunities so often that it's surprising Christina Aguilera took eleven years from making it big on the pop scene to making her film debut.
Aguilera began as a performer on the star-nurturing 1990s "Mickey Mouse Club", but any accepted offers since then have been limited to her talents as a singer. There might have been some sound reasoning behind the delay. The majority of musician crossovers are viewed as gimmicks and/or jokes: Vanilla Ice's Cool as Ice, Kelly Clarkson's From Justin to Kelly, fellow MMCer Britney Spears' Crossroads, and so on.

Cher, Aguilera's co-star in Burlesque, initially seemed like she might have gone that route, with performances in forgotten late-'60s vehicles Good Times and Chastity, but her return to acting in the 1980s produced some well-regarded work and a Best Actress Academy Award for Moonstruck. Not a bad movie star model for a musician to aspire to. The theatrical directing debut of occasional screenwriter and former actor Steve Antin, Burlesque wielded potential both as a breakthrough for Aguilera and a comeback for Cher.

New to L.A., small-town girl Ali Rose (Christina Aguilera) has her eyes opened to the art of burlesque. When she's not wallowing in bills, Tess (Cher), the saintly owner of the Burlesque Lounge, doubts the talents of enthusiastic hopefuls.

Aguilera plays Ali, a small-town waitress who ditches life in middle-of-nowhere Iowa for a chance to entertain in Los Angeles. Despite all the prospects there, Ali can't find work in the big city and reluctantly parts with $20 to get into the Burlesque Lounge. Unsure of what she's to see, Ali is impressed by the lingerie-clad song and dance, and immediately pursues employment. When the club's owner Tess (Cher) and stage manager Sean (Stanley Tucci) dismissively suggest a long wait to get on stage, Ali picks up a drink tray and hires herself as a waitress.

It's easy to see where the story is heading from here. Ali impresses in her audition and gets to join the troupe. Then, she gets a shot to fill in for Nikki (Kristen Bell), the club's alcoholic diva star and, though set up for embarrassment, she dazzles everyone with her commanding singing voice. As her star rises and the familial club welcomes her into the ranks, Ali also finds romance. There is big shot real estate developer Marcus Gerber (Erik Dane), whose empty smooth talk and bid to buy the theatre seem to limit his prospects. More seriously, there is Jack (Cam Gigandet), a bartender/songwriter who lets Ali crash on his couch indefinitely. Though Jack is engaged to be married, his fiancιe is out of sight and increasingly out of mind.

Some pressing conflict is had in the club's finances. While Ali seems to fill and satisfy the Lounge with her electrifying stage presence, somehow the numbers are dangerously against Tess and her business partner (Peter Gallagher). Can the Sunset Strip establishment be saved? Can Ali find true love? Can the story be put on hold for a few minutes for another musical number?

Able to do much more than lip-sync, Ali (Christina Aguilera) is a huge sensation, so naturally the Burlesque Lounge must be on the verge of insurmountable bankruptcy. Jack (Cam Gigandet) is Ali's roommate and friend, but might he want to be more than that?

You already know the answers to those questions and most of the others that Burlesque raises. The film doesn't turn any new pages over in stardom rise storytelling, but it attracts notice anyway, as the only live-action film musical of 2010, and the first in the careers of the enduringly famous Cher and Aguilera.
Cher sings just two numbers here, the early establisher "Welcome to Burlesque" and the Golden Globe-winning "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" (which wasn't nominated for last night's Oscars). Despite her top billing, the surgically-preserved sexagenarian does not claim a wealth of screentime, getting surpassed even by Tucci as the behind-the-scenes authority.

The show largely belongs to Aguilera, who reveals herself to be an adequate actress but is more extensively utilized as a singer. Her signature loud, forceful vocals are heard again and again in a mix of original and cover songs, which seem to say little about burlesque as an art form and about this film's story. The numbers exist mainly to exist, although there are enough dramedic interludes to keep this from feeling like an Aguilera concert film. As someone who isn't naturally drawn to musicals or to Aguilera's music, I don't see much in these performances to rave about or to use to forgive dramatic shortcomings.

In recent years at least, it seems like musicals aren't often met with middling reactions. They are either elevated to year-end lists and Best Picture talk (Moulin Rouge!, Chicago, Dreamgirls) or ridiculed as punchlines (Nine). Given the two extremes, Burlesque is more likely to have been lumped in with the latter (whose bad reputation I found largely undeserved). But the disapproval didn't seem to go quite that far. Burlesque really isn't a bad movie, just a mediocre one that relies more on Aguilera's singing and glitzy costumes than an original story or anything else. It is executed painlessly enough, a few poor bits of dialogue notwithstanding. But you'll need to have a much greater appreciation for Aguilera and Cher than I do to see it as anything more than routine and frivolous.

Lately, the movie industry has been receiving strong mixed signals from the public regarding the appeal of musicals. Chicago, Hairspray, and Mamma Mia! were all solid hits, handily eclipsing the $100 million mark domestically and performing well to incredibly well overseas. However, most of the genre's other entries, including Rent, The Producers, Across the Universe, and Nine, have floundered to very real losses. Performing in between those two groups, Burlesque failed to meet expectations or to recoup its $55 M production budget at the North American box office (it's grossed just under $40 M), but it made enough to keep out of disaster territory.

With its Thanksgiving weekend opening, the movie certainly hoped to be in contention for some awards; even the comparably eviscerated Nine still snagged four Oscar nominations. But the generally forgiving Golden Globes represented the height of Burlesque's accolades, with two original song nods and a Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) loss. While the timing would have been much more perfect with some Academy Award attention, Burlesque nonetheless comes to DVD and Blu-ray + DVD this week from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Burlesque DVD cover art -- click to buy DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Most Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $28.95
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Embossed, Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack ($34.95 SRP)
and on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Burlesque looks pretty dapper on DVD. The movie has a limited, unnatural color palette, giving almost every shot a red, blue, or golden tint. The picture is clean and sharp enough, even through soft lighting and during busy stage numbers where compression issues might arise. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack also delivers, dispersing the music in crisp and lively fashion. The peaks and valleys in volume mean you'll probably want to have the remote control nearby, but if you're okay with that, you shouldn't be bothered by any aspect of this energetic mix.

Alan Cumming's doorman Alexis gets his only chance to sing in the Burlesque Jukebox's deleted song "That's Life." The film's cross-cut number "Something's Got a Hold on Me", part of Ali's Iowan departure, is extended in the DVD's alternate opening.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The DVD's average collection of extras begins with a solo audio commentary by writer/director Steven Antin. He talks incessantly as if no one's ever recorded or listened to an audio commentary (and maybe never even made a movie) before. Antin proudly points out all of the filmmaking magic that most wouldn't feel the need to mention, like the sets built and CGI backdrops added.
He is way too serious and adoring, as he tries to find Alice in Wonderland parallels and takes pains to ensure every cast and crew member gets enough praise. If you loved Burlesque and have never heard anything about how these things called movies are made, this is the track for you. Otherwise, you'll find it more difficult to appreciate the movie after hearing this.

Next comes the bonus feature most touted on the packaging. The Burlesque Jukebox offers full, uncut performances of six songs (17:05): "Something's Got a Hold on Me (Dancers Version)", Kristen Bell's suggestive "Long John Blues", Christina Aguilera's "Guy What Takes His Time" and "Express", and Alan Cumming's racy "Jungle Berlin" and deleted number "That's Life". These can be viewed individually, collectively, and, with a shuffle feature, randomly. It is perfectly understandable why Antin wouldn't want to put these in the film as they appear here but would want to preserve them nonetheless.

Likewise presented with feature-worthy picture and full 5.1 sound, an alternate opening (6:33) reorders and extends Ali's departure of Dwight's Bar and her number crosscut with the burlesque dancers.

Stanley Tucci gets (or, rather, remains) silly in the blooper reel. Kristen Bell and Julianne Hough's one-upmanship performance appears in the DVD's glitzy main menu montage.

The blooper reel (5:09) is more revealing than entertaining, because it includes amateurish goofs along with the more common crack-ups and playfulness.

Five featurettes are kept exclusive to the Blu-ray Disc, which apparently includes the same DVD reviewed here. They are "Burlesque is Back!", "The Performers: The Cast of Burlesque", "Setting the Stage: Production Design & Photography", "Inside the Dressing Room: Creating the Burlesque Look",
and "The Set List: The Music & Choreography of Burlesque." It's worth noting that the DVD checks in 2 GB under dual-layered capacity, meaning there was ample room to accommodate these. In addition to those 33 minutes of content, the Blu-ray also touts movieIQ+sync "featuring the Burlesque playlist", whatever that is.

The DVD loads with promos for Blu-ray, Sony's make.believe philosophy, How Do You Know, The Tourist, Country Strong, and You Get Served: Beat the World. The four movie trailers are individually accessible from the "Previews" menu.

The main menu plays a montage of clips among alternating stage lights and jazz. The silent and static remaining menus border their options with lights.

Burlesque is the first Sony DVD in a long time that I've seen topped by a cardboard slipcover. It applies eye-catching holographic effects to a variety of places on all four sides, including the title, the background, stage stair bulbs, Cher's blouse, and Christina's, uh, headlights. Inside the Eco-Box keepcase, a double-sided insert offers two coupons good for $3 off gφt2b hair styling products.

She sings, she dances, she serves drinks... is there anything Alice (Christina Aguilera) can't do in the Wonderland that is Sunset Boulevard's Burlesque Lounge?

CLOSING THOUGHTS

A familiar and flavorless stardom rise musical, Burlesque's greatest appeal lies with those who can't get enough of Christina Aguilera's singing. Unless you consider corseted theatrics irresistible, you'll find little to appreciate and less to remember about this barely passable production. The DVD delivers a first-rate feature presentation but a fairly lackluster bunch of extras. If you enjoy this enough to own, you'd probably be wise to spend the few extra dollars to get the DVD packaged with the slightly more loaded Blu-ray.

Buy on DVD from Amazon.com / Buy Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack / Download Instant Video

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Christina Aguilera: Mickey Mouse Club: The Best of Britney, Justin & Christina • Mulan • Shine a Light
A Star is Born • Flashdance • Nine • Dreamgirls • Chicago • Across the Universe • The Runaways • Once Upon a Mattress
Kristen Bell: You Again • When in Rome | Cam Gigandet: Easy A • The Experiment | Stanley Tucci: Julie & Julia • Shall We Dance?
New: Glee: Season 2, Volume 1 • Megamind • Life As We Know It • For Colored Girls • You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

Burlesque Complete Music List (in order of use): Miranda Lambert - "Makin' Plans", Christina Aguilera - "Something's Got a Hold on Me", Christina Aguilera - "The Beautiful People (From Burlesque)", "Welcome to Burlesque (Instrumental)", "My Drag", Cher - "Welcome to Burlesque", Chris Phillips and the Fireside Orchestra - "Don't Touch", Chris Phillips and the Squirrel Nut Zippers Orchestra - "Poor Boy Blues", Chris Phillips and the Squirrel Nut Zippers Orchestra - "That Fascinating Thing", Chris Phillips and the Squirrel Nut Zippers Orchestra - "Verdi Mart Shuffle", Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell - "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend (Swing Cat Mix)", Wynton Marsalis - "Black Bottom Stomp", Megan Mullally - "Long John Blues", Chris Phillips and the Squirrel Nut Zippers Orchestra - "Curly's Blues", Chris Phillips and the Petrojvic Blasting Company Orchestra - "Welcome to Burlesque (Tango)", Christina Aguilera - "Nasty Naughty Boy", Elmer Bernstein - "Wagon Wheel Watusi", Madonna - "Ray of Light", Wynton Marsalis - "New Orleans Bump", "Guy What Takes His Time (Instrumental)", Etta James - "Tough Lover", Christina Aguilera - "Tough Lover", Chris Phillips and the Squirrel Nut Zippers Orchestra - "Suits Are Picking Up the Bill", Christina Aguilera - "But I Am a Good Girl (From Burlesque)", Christina Aguilera - "Guy What Takes His Time", Neon Trees - "Animal", Keri Hilson - "Knock You Down", Christina Aguilera - "Express", "Jungle Berlin", Cher - "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me", Alphaville - "Forever Young", Donna Summer - "Hot Stuff", Wayne Newton - "Danke Schoen", Modern English - "I Melt with You", Boston - "More Than a Feeling", Christina Aguilera - "Bound to You", Mazzy Star - "Fade Into You", Chris Phillips and the Squirrel Nut Zippers Orchestra - "Sitting Pretty", Christina Aguilera - "Show Me How You Burlesque"

Burlesque: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack:
Download from iTunes • Download MP3s from Amazon.com • Buy CD from Amazon.com

You Haven't Seen the Last of Me: The Remixes: Download from iTunes • Download MP3s from Amazon.com

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Reviewed February 28, 2011.



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