Christina Aguilera plays Ali in Burlesque, the small town girl looking for a break in California. She’s a singer, she’s a dancer, and please stop if you’ve heard all of this before. To her benefit, she discovers the artistry of a burlesque lounge, and thankfully her audition does not require singing the National Anthem.
To everyone’s on-screen credit here, the talent on display is just phenomenal. The dance routines are lavish, the vocals that are belted out are simply amazing, and the costumes are absurdly complex. As an attempt to bring back the classic musical with a sexier edge, Burlesque could work.
Sadly, all of that talent is shoved into a simply abysmal script, the clichés forced onto the screen more often than songs. It’s the small town girl with tremendous talent. She can’t catch a break until (gasp!) she gets her one shot. The former star of the club is jealous by her replacement. Oh, and the club is suffering under financial strains and their only hope is this new, unfounded talent. Will they make it out? Will the romance come together? Will a greedy land developer rule the day?
It’s almost painful how forced this script is from writer/director Steve Antin. Nothing is a surprise, nothing is fresh, and nothing ever feels legitimate. Maybe the script just wants to be traditional, or fanciful though. There are even hints that this whole thing is meant to be a fairy tale, references to Alice in Wonderland hardly subtle.
So fine. It’s a fairy tale. A bad one with incredible dance numbers. Still doesn’t make it anything special beyond the overwhelming power of the dancing. The classic musicals of their day mixed in their song routines with purpose, telling a story as they went. Given the material, Burlesque just feels like an attempt to push a couple of careers further into Hollywood in the form and Cher and Aguilera.
Sony presents this effort in an AVC encode that is hampered in terms of eye candy by various stylistic choices. The entire thing is shot with a bit of a haze and constant lighting filters. It looks soft, lacking any precision detail or firm definition. Close-ups are are given a glow and warmth in the place of the usual high fidelity crispness.
The compression handles a grain structure without any problems, not that difficult since it’s hardly even noticeable behind the stylistic lighting choices. The club is dark and a little seedy for effect, making it necessary for the black levels to take center stage along with the performers. They do just that, and quite well. Shadow delineation is clean aside from those truly dim sequences where light barely makes a presence.
Color falls into a number of shades you can count on one hand: red, orange, teal, and a hint of purple. Nothing else survives into the burlesque show. It’s routinely ugly, lit by stage lights that only allows for those hues. Even off the dance stage, flesh tones are overbearingly warm. A solo musical number from Cher drenched in teal is actually a relief from the oppressive warm saturation.
Contrast typically looks lacking in pizazz, but make it to those numbers where lights are a priority and Burlesque’s Blu-ray shows what it can do. Spotlights blow out the highlights, and even sun pouring in an apartment window can heat things up. The film is almost dreamlike in its fogginess, and it’s supposed to be that way. No work on the digital side of things for the home will change that.
Nothing gets in the way of this flawless audio presentation. Music clarity is immense, and the power it can convey is something to hear. The drums of the band are delivered with force in the low-end, selling their weightier qualities. Piano numbers, cymbals, guitars, it’s all here with a sparkling clarity.
Vocals are routinely stunning too, carrying through the soundfield for a complete wrap-around effect, the fidelity focus certainly on the center. The mix is a small miracle in terms of balance, the stereos belting out rhythms while the rears handle the echo.
An adoring crowd is always on hand to cheer post-performance, typically remaining quiet for most of the numbers. That leaves the music as the only element this DTS-HD track needs to handle, and the mixing is better for it.
A solo commentary is handled by writer/director Steve Antin, followed by easy access to the entirety of the performances uncut. An alternate opening is followed-up by a series of entertaining bloopers. Five featurettes are crammed into a sub-menu, totaling about 33-minutes. It’s the rundown of the usual stuff, from casting, choreography, the genesis of the idea, and costuming. Sony discs always come with MovieIQ and BD-Live access too.