Rex Reed on 'Burlesque': 'So bad it makes you realize how much you miss "Showgirls" '
Sony bigwigs keep bragging to everyone who'll listen that "Burlesque," the new Christina Aguilera and Cher-starring musical from Screen Gems, is one of the studio's all-time highest testing movies. But the showbiz circuit buzz about the film has been nothing but bad, especially after the Hollywood Reporter's Kim Masters weighed in with a knockout punch of a story about the troubled production. The piece focused on the backstage drama between Screen Gems chief Clint Culpepper and his longtime partner Steven Antin, who directed the film.
Hiring your partner was a bad idea when former Paramount chief Sherry Lansing used to give movies to her husband, Billy Friedkin, to direct. And it's still a bad idea today, especially after the twosome made news with a string of jaw-dropping on-set fights, including one where Culpepper poured an iced tea over Antin's head.
It seemed like a good bet that the reviews for the film, which opens Wednesday, were going to be miserable, especially after Sony took out full-page ads last Sunday loaded with rave blurbs from, well, people no one had ever heard of. The so-called critics who called the film "a must-see" and "a high-energy party" included such notables as Jami Philbrick of MovieWeb.com, Fred Topel of ScreenJunkies.com, Jim Ferguson of KGUN9-ABC and Mark S. Allen of Reelz Channel Network.
Having waited to hear from a better-known source, I was rewarded Tuesday by the New York Observer's Rex Reed, who's been writing acid-tongued reviews since Sean Connery was James Bond and Donald Trump had a crew cut. But Rex has outdone himself this time. In his review, he says Aguilera's singing "sounds like calling hogs," claims that her big strip number with ostrich plumes is "stolen toe to pinky finger from an old routine by Sally Rand" and dismisses the embattled filmmaker with a wave of his own pinky, remarking that "it is extremely unlikely that writer-director Steven Antin could direct dune buggies in the Sahara desert."
And as for the movie itself? Reed writes: "Trash comes in all forms, but rarely in a sequined G-string. That's all there is to a brain-dead, cliché-riddled pastiche of old Betty Grable movies called 'Burlesque.' This one is strictly for Cher fans who like their campy shtick loud, lewd and ludicrous. But the biggest problem among many is that it's not her movie. She's hardly in it. Instead of an excuse to breathe oxygen into the twilight of Cher's career, it turns out to be a slutty pasteup constructed out of spit and chewing gum to showcase the movie debut of the caterwauling Christina Aguilera.... This movie is so bad that it makes you realize how much you miss 'Showgirls.' "
So far "Burlesque" has a lowly 36 at Rotten Tomatoes, which could drop even lower when more of the mainstream press weighs in. It sounds like, if I can channel Rex for a moment, that unless you have a real weakness for kitschy camp, decked out in industrial-strength mascara, this is the one kind of turkey that should be avoided on Thanksgiving.
Photo: Stanley Tucci, left, wth Cher in a scene from "Burlesque." Credit: Stephen Vaughan / Screen Gems