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Burlesque

ToddInTheShadows-BurlesqueAMovieReview402

Date Aired
June 29, 2013
Running Time
21:09
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Todd: Hey! You wanna watch a pop-star movie with me? [Various "no"s] I heard a yes. Let's watch.

Clips of opening of Shake It Up!, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato - "One and the Same", and High School Musical

Todd (VO): You really have to respect the efficiency of the Disney machine. From the time they are hatched at the Disney labs in Orlando, Disney actresses are trained to do everything—sing, dance, act—so that they have multiple avenues to maintain their stardom, and if they find one career path leading nowhere, they can always fall back on one of the others. It's a dramatic, revolutionary breakthrough in child-star sustainability, insuring that our teen idol reserves will last until at least 2030. Unfortunately...

Todd: ...as with all progress, these breakthroughs were only made possible by observing the failed experiments of the past.

Clips of Britney Spears - "Baby One More Time", Mandy Moore - "Candy", Jessica Simpson - "I Think I'm in Love"

Todd (VO): Specifically, the last generation of teen pop stars, all of whom wound up in film at some point, [posters of Crossroads, How to Deal and The Dukes of Hazzard] and came away with very little in terms of success.

Todd: The one who resisted the urge the longest [clip of "Dirrty" by...] was Christina Aguilera, arguably the most talented of her scene, although I would also say arguably the least tolerable. I guess she wanted to stay focused on her music, although she never made much music either—she doesn't really record that often.

Clip of "Ain't No Other Man"

Todd (VO): Anyway, it was after yet another of her trademark, years-long breaks from recording that she decided to make her comeback in spectacular fashion.

Todd: Finally jumping into the Hollywood scene by starring in her first movie.

Trailer for Burlesque

Todd (VO): And to smooth the transition, she also recruited as a co-star one of the most successful singers-turned-actresses in history, Cher, and the movie would be about Christina's favorite style of performance, burlesque, to lend a veneer of retro class to her brand of over-the-top skankiness. Surely, there would be no better vehicle to launch Christina back into superstardom.

Todd: Obviously, that's not what happened.

Todd (VO): Burlesque kind of squittered in theaters before quickly squittering its way out again without even the good sense to become a notorious flop, and with the only buzz from it coming after Cher allegedly [The Stir article: "Did 'Burlesque' Bribe Voters for Golden Globe Nomination?"] bribed her way to a couple of Golden Globe nominations. It wasn't disliked, at least not enough to hurt Christina or anything, but it didn't really help either. It became just another easily forgotten stumble in Christina's flagging later career. But what exactly is it? Why didn't this movie—which did, in its early stages, have some buzz as a promising film—why didn't it do better? Why'd it get so quickly forgotten?

Todd: Well, let's find out. Let's take a look at Burlesque. [Pause as Todd looks around] My TV's on the other side of the...hold on.

Todd turns around in his seat so he is now facing the right. He pulls out a remote and turns on...

The movie begins...
Ali Rose (Christina Aguilera): $16.50 for you, $16.50 for me.

Todd (VO): Um...oh, boy.

Loretta (Isabella Hofmann): You're really going?
Ali Rose: I'm really going.

Todd (VO): You know, I don't know that I expected this movie not to be riddled with cliches, but... For crap's sake, she's from Iowa. From Iowa, people. I mean, she's literally...

Todd: She's...hold on, let me sum up this part for you real quick.

Turns around and plays that song.

Todd (VO): [singing over film] Just a small-town girl
Livin' in a lonely world
She took the midnight train going anywhere

Oh, but she...she's gonna sing first, obviously. Let's get that out of the way.

Ali Rose: I...!

Fist flies across screen, "punching" Todd

Todd (VO): Ow.

Ali Rose: ...get a feeling that I never, never, never, never had before, no no

Todd (VO): Yeah, in case it's not clear, I really don't like Christina Aguilera's singing. It's...it's all power, no style, I always feel like I'm being flattened.

Todd: Good thing I get to hear it for a full 120 minutes.

Todd (VO): Also, yeah, if you notice, she is singing that same song that Flo Rida sampled.

Clip of Flo Rida - "Good Feeling"
Etta James: I get a feeling that I never never never never had before

Todd (VO): I thought ruining that Etta James song was the only original part of that song, but [back to movie] no, looks like Flo Rida wasn't even the first to do that.

Bus clerk: One-way or round trip?
Ali Rose: You're kidding, right?

Todd (VO): Anyway, her midnight train going anywhere is more specifically going to LA, where she starts the grueling grind of trying to make it in Hollywood.

Ali tosses a torn-up note out her window. She walks down the street, newspaper in hand, as a familiar tune plays.

Todd (VO): That...that can't be.

Todd is speechless that it's...

Clip of Marilyn Manson - "The Beautiful People"
Marilyn: The beautiful people, the beautiful people
It's all relative to the size of your steeple
Christina: All of the beautiful people
Shining like diamonds
They got no problems

Todd: [mind blown] Poosshh...

Todd (VO): Well, obviously, we know where this is leading. She's eventually gonna be led to the seedy underbelly...well, neo-burlesque shows are not really all that seedy. But for our purposes, the seedy underbelly of showbiz. A singer in a smoky room, smell of wine and cheap perfume. Yes, a burlesque club, cleverly named Burlesque.

Tess (Cher): Show a little more
Show a little less
A little smoke
Welcome to Burlesque

Todd: [wags tongue] Yeah, I'm not really a fan of Cher's singing either. This really is not a movie I should be watching, is it?

Tess: If you got a little extra
Well, give it to the band

Todd (VO): Why, yes, now that you mention it, yeah, this sort of does resemble Moulin Rouge!.

Todd: You did mention that, right? Could've sworn you just said that.

Clips from Moulin Rouge and performance of "Lady Marmalade" at 2001 MTV Movie Awards

Todd (VO): I mean, there's a little bit of the "Roxanne Tango" in there, it's a little like the way Zidler introduces the show at the beginning, which was soundtracked by Christina Aguilera, if you remember. But hey, it's just like a few superficial similarities.

Todd: It's just one song. I'm sure it's nothing.

Georgia (Julianne Hough): A kiss on the hand may be quite continental
But diamonds are a girl's best friend.

Todd: Okay, that might be something, 'cause that...

Another clip from Moulin Rouge!
Satine (Nicole Kidman): A kiss on the hand
Narcoleptic Argentinean (Jacek Koman): Oh, my!

Todd (VO): Yeah.

Georgia and Nikki (Kristen Bell): But stiff back or stiff knees
You stand straight at Tiff...ney's
[Ali looks and reaches high...]

Todd: JAAAAZZZZZ...

Ali Rose: Diamonds...

Todd: Holy crap, it actually happened.

Todd (VO): I was just joking, but they did it. [Clip of...] They completely and totally ripped off the scene from Chicago where Roxie imagines herself into the show. That's not an homage, that's not a reference, that's just straight-up theft.

Todd: And if you're counting, that's two movies it's ripped off in one scene.

Todd (VO): And then we meet the rest of the characters. The sad thing is this movie has a pretty decent cast. I mean, we've got Cher as Tess, the bitchy but lovable boss lady; we've got Julianne Hough from Dancing with the Stars as one of the dancers; Alan Cumming reprising his role from Cabaret despite basically not having any lines; Stanley Tucci playing pretty much the exact same character as he did in The Devil Wears Prada; and that guy with the eyebrows who's in everything playing Tess's ex-husband and the club's co-owner.

Vince Scali (Peter Gallagher): Have you read this letter from the bank? This isn't going away.

Todd (VO): Yes, the theater is about to be foreclosed on.

Todd: Yes, it's that kind of movie.

Marcus Gerber (Eric Dane): I assume all your financial obligations...buy you out.

Todd (VO): Anyway, Eyebrow Guy wants her to sell the theater to some oily rich guy, but she doesn't want to.

Vince: Do you know what you could do with that money, Tess?
Marcus: Remember, you've got that balloon payment due on the first.
Tess: Did you also them I have a tattoo on my ass?
Vince: No.

Todd: That's...[clip of "If I Could Turn Back Time"] pretty common knowledge, actually.

Nikki: Hey, bring me a martini, extra dry.
Georgia: She doesn't work here, Nikki.
Nikki: Well, then she's not busy.

Todd (VO): And one last cast member, the once and future Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell playing the bitchy one. And now that we've got our designated rival...

Todd: ...of the movie, [pulling them out] the claws can come out. ROWR!

Ali Rose: You're just so damn beautiful. No one would ever know.
Nikki: Know what?
Ali Rose: That you're a dude.

Todd: Okay, that was like a 2...3 out of 10, at best.

Todd (VO): I...I'm sure it'll get crazier as it goes on.

Sean (Stanley Tucci): You'll have to come back another time.
Ali Rose: I've just never seen anything like this before.

Todd (VO): The weak link in the cast is, of course, Christina, and...actually Christina isn't...

Todd: ...really a terrible actress either, but...

Ali Rose: Yes, ma'am.
Tess: And don't ever call me ma'am again.
Ali Rose: Yes, sir...I mean, ma'am. I mean, Tess.
Tess: Get on the floor.

Todd (VO): Look, I can't think of anyone less capable of being a struggling, naive young ingenue than Christina Aguilera.

Clip from Christina's Behind the Music episode
Christina: I'm gonna be who I am, and what better way to do it than to wear assless chaps?
Clip of Britney Spears - "Sometimes"

Todd (VO): Now, Britney Spears could play some innocent, over-her-head starlet.

Todd: Britney Spears basically still is an innocent, over-her-head starlet. But...

Todd (VO): ...Christina, even right when she got famous, she always conveyed all the wholesome, guileless naivete of Miss Piggy.

Brief clip from The Muppet Show
Miss Piggy: Moi.

Todd (VO): Christina the plucky inexperienced newcomer?

Todd: No, I don't buy it.

Todd (VO): Anyway, Tess isn't hiring, but Christina basically forces them to hire her through sheer gumption and spunk and whatever, first as a waitress and then as a dancer because, by God, if Christina wants to work in a burlesque house, Christina's gonna work in a burlesque house.

Tess: [off Ali's dancing] What is she doing?
Sean: I think she's auditioning.
[Ali finishes]
Tess: You know, you were off the whole last half.
Ali Rose: Oh, come on, Tess...

Todd (VO): Heh. I hope you all enjoyed that single piece of acknowledgement that Christina might not be perfect because...

Todd: ...now we begin the phase of the movie that I call...

Todd (VO): [with stars] "Golly Gosh Christina Aguilera Is Just The Greatest And Best Singer And Dancer And Performer And Entertainer Who Ever Lived Ever." Spoilers—this phase will last the entire movie.

Todd: See, the cast of real actors might have tricked you into thinking...

Todd (VO): ...this was going to be more than some Glitter-esque vanity project, but...yeah, no. The entire middle and most of the end of the movie is just them kissing Christina's ass over and...

Todd: ...over again.

Sean: I couldn't keep my eyes off her.
Tess: Pulls focus, she doesn't blend in.
Sean: A girl that doesn't blend in? Oh, my.

Todd: She's a loose cannon, but she's the best we've got.

Todd (VO): It starts right around here, 'cause Christina thinks that instead of lip-syncing, she could actually sing.

Sean: People come here to watch the dancers dance and to watch them lip-sync.
Ali Rose: But wouldn't it be great if they actually heard the girls...sing?

Todd: Singing and dancing. It'll revolutionize the industry.

Todd (VO): Actually, come to think of it, if all the girls lip-sync, why do they have a band?

Ali Rose: All the girls lip-sync, right?
Sean: Except for Tess.
Ali Rose: Of course, except for Tess.

Todd (VO): Oh, right, Tess is allowed to sing because she has such an amazing voi...no she doesn't. Even Cher will tell you that. If...if you have a band on-staff just to accommodate your one vanity piece song every night, well...damn, it's no wonder you're going out of business.

Tess: Wait, hey, hey, hey, what's in that?
Nikki: Ice tea.
Tess: [taking the glass] Ice tea, my ass. Go home.
Ali, you're gonna take Nikki's spot.

Todd (VO): But Christina gets her chance when the evil one sabotages her performance and she gets to bust out her chops and sing. By God, does she sing.

Ali: I...Ooh, oh yeah yeah
Oooh yeah yeah
[Brief clip from Jackass 3D, with Ryan Dunn almost getting blown away while sitting in chair]
Ali Rose: I want a tough lover
Yeah, yeah

Todd (VO): Yes, isn't she magnificent? And for the next, like, 40 minutes or so...

Todd: ...nothing happens.

Tess: All right, you go in with the guys, find out what keys you're comfortable singing the songs in.
Sean: She wants to build the whole show around you.

Todd (VO): It's just song...

Ali Rose: It's a fashion
Burlesque

Todd (VO): ...after song...

Ali Rose: The dress is Chanel
The shoes YSL

Todd (VO): ...after song...

Ali Rose: A guy what takes his time, I'll go for any time

Todd (VO): ...after song after song, and occasionally people will talk about how great Christina is.

Todd: And you can watch Christina try to be Marilyn.

Ali Rose: My rings are by Webster, it makes their heads twirl

Todd: You can watch her try to be Madonna.

Ali Rose: E-X-P-R-E-S-S
Love, sex

Todd: Most unfortunately, you can watch her be herself.

Company: ...happen if I let you close enough to touch
Ali Rose: Whoa-oh-oh

Todd: Yeah.

Todd (VO): Note, though, even though they're a big, huge success, the theater is still going out of business. You know, Cher, if you're this successful and still can't keep the place open, maybe the problem is you.

Mark the DJ (David Walton): ...track you wanted to rehearse. For tomorrow night's show.
[Pushes the CD in]
Tess: Feeling broken, barely holding on
Don't count me out just yet

Todd (VO): [singing] Give me an Oscar
We have this whole song and there's no point for it except for a cheap Best Song nomination

Look, I really can't describe to you all the nothing that doesn't happen during this middle part of the movie. I...I don't see how you make a movie with Cher and Christina Aguilera set backstage at a burlesque show, and somehow it's not a campy, hammy, over-the-top diva spectacle, which...you know, why else would you watch this? I mean, this is straight up boring! I mean, yes, Christina dances and shows some skin and is...ooh, naughty. Please, this has less charge than any single one of Christina's music videos. I've seen more in Cher's music videos, not that I wanted to. I came into this expecting Showgirls, and I'm getting something lamer than Coyote Ugly, and Coyote Ugly is lame. Like, where's the bitchiness and the backstabbing? Why isn't Gina Gershon getting pushed down the stairs. I mean, there is Kristen Bell, but she's only barely meaner than the evil popular girl from High School Musical.

Nikki: I will not be upstaged by some slut with mutant lungs!

Todd (VO): [mocking] I'm so jealous because she's so perfect and talented.

Nikki: I quit!

Todd: Okay, there is one thing that kinda happens during the middle of the movie.

Todd (VO): It's the kinda, sorta romance. See, right at the beginning, Christina gets robbed because that is, of course, what happens to aspiring starlets just off the bus from Iowa in movies like this. So the club's bartender/aspiring songwriter/obvious love interest lets her crash with him. I can't remember his name, so we're just gonna call him Beefchunk the Bartender.

Ali Rose: She's pretty. Your sister?
Jack (Cam Gigandet): My fiance.
Ali Rose: You're straight?
Jack: You thought I was gay?
Ali Rose: [pause] I should go put on some pants.
Jack: Probably.

Todd (VO): Well, fellas, girls walk around pantsless around gay guys. They just do.

Todd: Try it yourself. Tell a girl you're gay, and watch them drop their pants. It happens.

Todd (VO): See, she moves in full-time 'cause he needs a roommate while his fiance's out performing in New York. And she also kinda starts seeing the guy who's trying to buy the club, and Beefchunk there starts getting jealous and weird for no reason. So after what seems like hours of boring songs, we get some actual forward motion. He breaks up with his fiance.

Jack: You know what? You're right. We should definitely start thinking about our futures, and I just might be looking at mine right now.

Todd (VO): And now that he's newly single, he starts winning over Christina by engaging in some subtle flirting.

Ali laughs as Jack walks across naked

Todd (VO): Quick, now do the whipped cream bikini thing from Varsity Blues.

But yes, they do eventually hook up, and then she sings a ballad because God knows that's what you go to a girly strip show for, right? Sad ballads by fully clothed women.

Ali Rose: ...were buried in dust
Free me...
If you walk away I will suffer tonight
I found a man I can trust

Todd sighs and points...1.

Clip from Cabaret
Sally (Liza Minnelli): Maybe this time...

Todd (VO): Ripoff! Shot! For! Shot!

Todd: Does this movie have a single original thought? Even one?

Todd (VO): But then, oh no.

Natalie (Dianna Agron): I knew it. You are a liar. A pathetic, sneaky little liar!
Ali Rose: What is she doing here?
Natalie: I live here! What I want to know is why you are here.

Todd (VO): Were they not really broken up? I guess he never said, "I'm dumping you." It...it's borderline. But when these sort of things happen, yeah, it's usually best to err on the side of he's a douchebag. So that ends that relationship, but what about the other guy? Well, Christina learns the horrible truth about why McMoney over there wants to buy the theater—he's going to turn it into condos. [Shocking music] God forbid Los Angeles have one less performance hall in it!

Todd: And what'll happen to all the other girls? They're a famiwy!

Todd (VO): Well, the community center/orphanage/family farm/what the hell ever is threatened, so you know what that means.

Todd: Let's put on a show! [Thinks about it] Oh no, wait, they're already doing that. Pretty successfully, too. And they're still going out of business, so...what does that leave?

Mr. Anderson (James Brolin): Please sit down, ladies.
Tess: A few years ago, you wanted to buy my club and I said no. Now, how much are you planning to sell your condos for?
Mr. Anderson: Well, they start at a million, and they go up from there, depending on the view.
Tess: What if I told you that a 20-story office building was going up where my club is? [Aside to Ali] That would block his view, right? And so, I think that we should talk. Hmm?
Ali Rose: I'd listen to her.

Todd: That's it. That's how they solve their money problems.

Todd (VO): It was that easy the entire time. [Clip from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2] The Twilight series ends with a peaceful negotiation, and even it has a stronger climax. They couldn't have written a cheaper resolution if they found a magic lamp in the road and wished themselves the money! And then...

Todd: ...it's over. Everything gets wrapped up.

Todd (VO): Everything. Cher buys out her ex-husband, resolved. Christina and what's-his-face get back together even though he's a...little bit of a scumbag, resolved. And that bitchy girl rejoins the troupe too!

Nikki: I wanna come home.
Tess: Okay, you're home.

Todd (VO): [logos for...] Showgirls: Friendship Is Magic. That's what I'm calling this movie from now on. And Beefchunk finishes his long-awaited song.

[Played over]
Belle: We're the sauce on your steak
We're the cheese in the cake
Yes, we put the spring in Springfield

Todd (VO): No, it's some other song that's, like, the fifth tune in this movie that has the word "burlesque" in it. And that's it, that's the movie. She's made it. A real Hollywood success story headlining a single insolvent burlesque house. She's a stah, baby!

Todd: So...what was the point of this movie?

Todd (VO): I mean, the story. What was it? Was it the romance? No, that was barely a subplot at best. Wasn't really a "save the theater" story either, that got solved easy-peasy. It's not really a "rise to the top" story either because she didn't get very far, and she got there in the first half-hour. She didn't learn or grow or anything, she was basically perfect when she arrived.

Todd: This is really a pointless and boring movie.

Todd (VO): It's Cabaret without the tragedy, Moulin Rouge! without the prostitution, Chicago without the murder, Showgirls without the batshit craziness, or for that matter, without the functional screenplay! Yes, this movie is less solidly constructed than Showgirls. I am going that far. If there's anything sadder than being Showgirls, it's failing to be Showgirls. This movie is a sad disappointment for fans of good movies and bad movies alike, and the only way I could imagine you'd like it is if you're a hardcore Christina Aguilera fan who desperately wanted some new music from her.

Todd: And if that's what you wanted...I say fine, whatever. Why don't we send it off with one more Christina song. Hit it!

Christina: Yeah-eah-eah-eah
[screaming] Yeah...
[Clip from Twister]
Show me how you burlesque


Closing tag song: Staff of Maison Derriere - "We Put the Spring in Springfield"

THE END
"Burlesque" is owned by DeLine Pictures
This video is owned by me

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