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November 24, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Making a movie musical these days would appear to be the riskiest of (show) businesses. It’s the rare musical that succeeds. A half century ago, it was only necessary to tie a few well-crafted tunes together with a sketchy script and moviegoers would cram into theaters to hum along. That’s no longer the case. Today, the script comes first, and some critics suggest that the producers of Burlesque have not learned that lesson. “It bristles with exuberant numbers that strain beneath the weight of cliché,” writes Scott Bowles in USA Today. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times acknowledges that he enjoyed the big song numbers “on a music video level,” but he hoots at the story. He concludes: “You think I’m just making snarky comments and indulging in cheap sarcasm. Well, all right, I am. Burlesque shows Cher and Christina Aguilera being all that they can be, and that’s more than enough.” What annoys Ebert and several other critics is that the producers have gone out of their way to give Burlesque a glossy, cleaned-up image that burlesque in reality never had, “with a story line,” writes the New York Times’s Manohla Dargis, “that had already gathered dust by the time the choreographer Busby Berkeley pointed his camera up the collective skirt of the chorus in the 1933 musical 42nd Street.” On the other hand, Mick LaSalle, in the San Francisco Chronicle calls the film “irresistible from its first minutes” and applauds director Steve Antin for not “belabor[ing] the story,” which, he says is “cleverer than it has to be.” Instead, LaSalle says, Antin “dashes for the finish — just in time for the massive dance number that sends people out with a spring in their step and the energy to rejoin a world that, for two hours, they’d completely forgotten.”

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