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Critical Mass: 'Burlesque' -- just bad, or so bad it's good?

November 24, 2010 |  6:00 pm

Burlesque Sometimes the blistering reviews for a movie are more entertaining than the film itself. In the case of the Cher and Christina Aguilera song-and-dance vehicle "Burlesque," the critics are having a lot of fun bumping and grinding their way through their analyses:

The Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey calls the movie "top-heavy from start to finish,"writing, "Think of 'Burlesque' as one ginormous music video theme party thrown by Christina Aguilera, with Cher in the house, plus boas, bustiers and dancing girls and about a thousand humongous Broadway-style showstoppers. Which is a far better way to consider 'Burlesque' than thinking of it as a movie — there, words fail."

The New York Observer's Rex Reed says Cher fans will be disappointed by just how little they get to see of their idol, noting, "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."

While most agree on the movie's dreadfulness, critics are divided on whether "Burlesque" falls into the merely bad or the so-bad-it's-good category.

For Time magazine's Mary Pols, "Burlesque" doesn't descend quite far enough. Pols writes, "The movie is frivolous fun, but not, as I had sort of hoped, as sinfully awful as 'Showgirls,' Mariah Carey's 'Glitter' or Britney Spears' 'Crossroads.' Lacking the snap of 'Chicago' or the insane creativity of 'Moulin Rouge,' it's a middle-of-the-road musical."

The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips, however, thought "Burlesque" stooped to "Glitter" territory in some satisfying ways, which poses a thorny question for a critic: how to assign a value to a movie so flagrantly bad. " 'Burlesque' is lousy," Phillips writes, "and the risible dialogue kept coming, like gray skies over Buffalo. Yet I enjoyed a fair amount of the movie's badness. Does that sort of enjoyment deserve one star? Two? A rarely deployed zero star designation, with a massive asterisk noting its potential camp value?"

"Burlesque" clearly isn't good enough for the critics, but only time will tell whether it's gratifyingly bad enough for the fans.

-- Rebecca Keegan


Photo: Stanley Tucci and Cher in "Burlesque." Credit: Associated Press