The story is as simple as it comes. Small town girl moves to the big city with stars in her eyes, finds her opportunity, an has an everlasting affect on everyone she meets. It is one of those big time feel good formats that is meant to put a smile on your face and not tax your brain all that much.
Christina Aguilera stars as Ali. An orphan from Iowa (saves on having to create a back story) heads to Los Angeles with the hopes of becoming a star. The Burlesque Lounge calls to her in a reflection in the buildings across the street. She enters the club and after exhibiting a little get up and go ingenuity, she finds herself hired on as a waitress. She quickly rises to the stage with a little help from club owner Tess (Cher), much to the chagrin of the show's star, Nikki (Kristen Bell).
There is more going on than Ali's rise to fame. Tess is in danger of losing the club. She and her ex-husband co-owner, played by Peter Gallagher, are being forced into selling to a real estate developer named Marcus (Eric Dane). This is a problem that weighs heavily on Tess's proud head and she does not even want to think about actually losing the club until the final act.
To round out the plot lines, there is the love interest that takes time to develop. The surprisingly straight bartender, Jack (Cam Gigandet), offers Ali a couch to sleep on, but their platonic relationship is not to last that way for long. All they have to do is get rid of that pesky long distance fiancee.
That about sums it. I think it is safe to say that if you are going to see this movie, it is not gong to be for the story. Most of you reading this could write it in your sleep. What you are going to see this movie for are the musical numbers. This is not a musical, but there is a lot of music in it.
I cannot attest to this films numbers authenticity with regards to actual burlesque shows, but they are lively and entertaining. They also only exist in a fantasy world, as evidenced by the magically expanding and contracting stage in the small club. The music is really not my style, but there is no denying that Christina Aguilera has a powerful voice. She proves to be able to hold the screen as a singer, but can do it decidedly less so when actually acting. It is funny as she actually started off halfway decent and declined as the movie got deeper into the story.
On the other hand, Cher commands the screen as a singer and an actress. She is not given an awful lot to do, but there is a certain credibility to everything that she does. She does have a couple of good musical numbers. She also works great with Stanley Tucci, who strikes me as being terribly underrated. He plays the gay stage manager.
On a nearly final note, I wish we got more from Kristen Bell. Her character struck me as being rather interesting yet is not given a lot of room to grow in. I have a suspicion that there are a lot of scenes with her on the cutting room floor.
Is this movie worth seeing? Sure. The musical numbers are executed well and there is a nice sheen over the whole thing. I was vaguely reminded of Moulin Rouge and I also left wanting to listen to some Dresden Dolls. The story could have used an injection of originality and some of the parts could have bee beefed up some, but overall it will make you smile. It is fun and sometimes that is all you really need.