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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/1/2011
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/24/2011
I don't know about you, but it's hard for me to feel sorry for the rich and famous. But, no matter how you slice it, things haven't been going well lately for Christina Aguilera. In October of last year, she filed for divorce from her husband of six years. On February 6th of this year, she had the honor of singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl...and immediate went viral when she flubbed the words. But, as bad as those things may have been (and that Super Bowl thing got blown way out of proportion) perhaps the worst thing was that her first starring role in a feature film went almost unnoticed. Is Burlesque really that bad?
Burlesque introduces us to Ali (Christina Aguilera), a young woman from Iowa who decides to follow her show-business dreams to Los Angeles. Once there, she stumbles upon a burlesque club and gets a job as a waitress, and she befriends the bartender, Jack (Cam Gigandet). Every night, Ali watches the dancers perform, awaiting the time when she will make it on-stage. Meanwhile, club owner Tess (Cher) is dealing with financial issues. Real estate mogul Marcus (Eric Dane) wants to buy the club, but Tess refuses to give up, despite the urgings of her business partner/ex-husband Vince (Peter Gallagher). Stage manager Sean (Stanley Tucci) has his hands full taking care of the dancers and reassuring Tess that everything will work out. When one of the dancers is suspended, Ali is finally given her chance to audition, and her talent is allowed to shine through, but will the club close before she has a chance to fulfill her dream?
It's often said that Hollywood has run out of original ideas (or more accurately, they choose to ignore them) and it doesn't get any more unoriginal than Burlesque. This is essentially Showgirls meets The Little Rascals. Ali is the determined, yet slightly naive smalltown girl who arrives in the big city in order to make it big. She finds just the right place -- the burlesque club -- with its familiar characters of the wise veteran (Tess), the nice guy (Jack) and the evil schemestress (Nikki, played by Kristen Bell). But, just when Ali is beginning to feel at home, she learns that the club might close. "Hey, everybody, let's put on a show!" Well, while it's not exactly that simplistic, Burlesque certainly goes down that road, and it certainly feels as if the movie could have easily stuck with that plan.
But, even with these cliches and contrivances, Burlesque is somehow entertainment and better than it has any right to be. And yet, I couldn't tell you why. It's not the music. The songs are a mixture of old standards and some new songs, and none of them are very catchy. (I found it amusing that amongst all of the traditional songs, we get "Express", which immediately sounds like "the song which was meant to be a hit single for Christina Aguilera".) It's not the dancing, which piles on loads of what to my layman eye appears to be Fosse and looks like the moves which we've seen many times before. And, again, it's not the story or characters.
Perhaps it's the film's unoriginality which makes it likable. Similar to a standard, but satisfying meal, say like a cheeseburger or bacon & eggs, Burlesque is something which we've experienced before, but it's presented in a way which makes it enjoyable. Even at 2 hours, the movie never drags or feels overly long (although, I must admit, I fast-forwarded through one of the ballads). While the music doesn't leave a lasting impression, it's never awful. The cast of familiar faces do a fine job, with Tucci (who has apparently made it his mission to only play men who take care of women, ie: The Devil Wears Prada,Julie & Julia) stealing the show. However, all eyes are on Christina Aguilera here, who is asked to carry the film in her movie debut. And while she's not going to when any awards, she's not bad and fairly believable in the role.
Burlesque is an odd hybrid of a film. It's a musical, but not in the sense that the characters suddenly begin singing the story. All of the songs here are confined to the stage. And yet, the songs do help propel the plot. Will this satisfy fans of musicals? I don't know, but again, the movie simply wants to entertain and it comes close to achieving that goal. From my perspective, the movie featured multiple scenes in which women danced in their underwear, and I think that's just swell.
Burlesque will have you entering "air rights" into a search engine on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The movie has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 24 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The movie is quite dark at times, as there's little light in the club, but the transfer handles it well, and the action is always visible. This look makes the colors, such as reds and greens, really stand out. The picture has excellent detail and we can see textures on clothing and objects. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is one of the best tracks which I've heard in a while and possibly the most detailed track that I've ever heard. During the songs, each instrument can easily be heard and the separation between the stereo and surround channels respectively is very impressive. Someone put a lot of work into this mix and that someone clearly loves the drums, as they really stand out and in one of the later songs, and drum-roll flows through all of the speakers. The songs also provide pounding bass at times. Along with this, the crowd noise in the club sounds very good as well.
The Burlesque Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Steven Antin. "The Burlesque Jukebox" allows the viewer to watch six musical number from the movie in their entirety, including "That's Life", a deleted song my Alan Cummings. The only issue here is that the songs are only presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, so it doesn't sound as good as the movie. The "Alternate Opening" (7 minutes) is almost exactly like the opening now found in the film, but the footage is put together in a different order. This is more like an editing exercise than a deleted scene. We get a 5-minute BLOOPER REEL. The Disc contains five behind-the-scenes featurettes -- "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". These run for a total of 33 minutes and off a nice amount of on-set footage and interviews with Antin and the cast. Of course, there's a lot of focus on Aguilera and her transition from singing to acting.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2011.