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In 'Burlesque,' strippers bare and bore

An upbeat tale about a small-town girl who becomes the best stripper in Los Angeles, "Burlesque" manages what seemed impossible: It is filled with half-naked dancing girls, yet it's still boring.

We could ponder its values (What's that, parents? Not the best message, you say?), but "Burlesque" is too moronic to fret over. It's unlikely to inspire its PG-13 viewers to take feather-dancing classes; there's nothing here they haven't seen in a music video, anyway.

Speaking of which, Christina Aguilera plays Ali, a cocktail waitress at The Burlesque Lounge who yearns to command its stage. There's no denying Aguilera's roof-raising voice (her acting is another matter), and she is already a kind of modern-day burlesquer as a touring act, accustomed to elaborate routines and costume changes. But that also explains why her numbers seem so familiar, so unsurprising. Aguilera is an obvious choice - the only kind this film ever makes.

Among the others are the lounge's mother-hen proprietor (Cher, waxen), gay stage manager (Stanley Tucci, coasting) and sensitive bartender-musician (Cam Gigandet, wretched). Of course, the club is in danger of closing; a wealthy developer (Eric Dane) has his eye on it, and on Ali.

The movie tries to channel Bob Fosse's "Cabaret" (Alan Cumming redoes his Tony-winning shtick as a salacious emcee), but writer-director Steven Antin, a rock-video veteran, can't deny his Pussycat Dolls sensibility. Though snicker-worthy at moments, "Burlesque" doesn't even have the camp potential of a "Showgirls" or a "Dirty Dancing." It's unfunny, unsexy and nearly unwatchable.


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