Musical fans excited to see an all-singing, all-dancing rags-to-riches rollercoaster spectacular will probably feel least cheated. With form in music videos and live burlesque, debut writer-director Steven Antin knows how to put on a show and mean it. He throws spangly, ‘Chicago’-style production numbers at the screen like King Kong hurling cars down Fifth Avenue.
Connoisseurs of the compellingly bad and/or outrageously camp will find a fair bit to savour: notably, thudding exposition, naff design touches and a nocturnal car-park scene involving Cher, a crowbar, mutant lungs, memories, adultery and vomit. But too much of the movie is simply banal or inept. The leads are inert, the production design boringly glossy. Crucially, the script is devoid of tension, badly paced and stuffed with distracting supporting characters, of whom only Stanley Tucci, reprising his GBF shtick from ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, is remotely memorable. Worst news for schlock fiends: no actual tits, no bona-fide bitches.
The third potential audience – adolescent girls in search of aspirational escapism – is the crowd to whom the film’s coy dissembling about the actual nature of burlesque does a real disservice. Even if they admire Aguilera’s powerful voice, this ain’t the way professional singers are discovered. But there it is: try to make ‘Showgirls’ for 12 year olds and you please no one. What a tease.