By John Mulderig
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Though it features impressive singing from the hearty pipes of Christina Aguilera, the initially pleasant musical "Burlesque" (Screen Gems) ultimately mixes a few decadent set-pieces in the titular performing style with an implicit endorsement of contemporary mores offstage. The result, unfortunately, is an entertainment too sordid for recommendation.
Aguilera plays Ali, an Iowa farm girl who moves to Los Angeles hoping, like many, to see her name up in lights. While job hunting, she stumbles upon the Burlesque Lounge. There, she becomes entranced with the somewhat risque performances and — with the assistance of friendly bartender-cum-band-member Jack (Cam Gigandet) — she lands a waitressing gig.
Naturally, it’s only a matter of time before Ali overcomes the initial skepticism of financially beleaguered club owner Tess (Cher) — who, as these things go, is on the verge of losing the club to creditors — and gets her chance to take to the spotlight. And of course, romantic sparks are bound to fly with Jack, his faraway fiancee notwithstanding.
What with Aguilera’s character pleading for her one shot at the big time, and the bank ready to foreclose on Cher’s dreams, writer-director Steven Antin’s small-town-gal-makes-good showbiz celebration starts out feeling as though Andy Hardy and his friends had wandered onto the set of "Cabaret."
But a few of the showcased acts cross the line from saucy to salacious, the outcome of the love interest winds up glamorizing an unwedded encounter and an incidental gay relationship involving stage manager Sean (Stanley Tucci) is treated as just another amorous alternative.
Additionally, a plotline about the prenuptial pregnancy of one of Ali’s colleagues leads to an exchange, which can be interpreted as Tess offering to support her distraught employee should she opt to destroy the child.
The film contains a benign view of premarital sex and homosexuality, possible acceptance of abortion, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, fleeting rear nudity, often suggestive and briefly obscene dancing, several uses of profanity and one rough and some crude and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.