A Sexy Modern Musical Is Getting A Second Life On Netflix

The Christina Aguilera musical Burlesque is currently in the top ten most-watched movies on Netflix.

By Nathan Kamal | Updated

christina aguilera

For whatever reason, when a movie musical arrives in theaters, it never really goes away. Perhaps it is the opportunity for kitschy revivals, the sheer amount of enthusiasm and care it takes to make even a mediocre musical, or even the prospect of Tom Cruise utterly committing to a Def Leppard song. In this case, Christina Aguilera’s 2010 movie Burlesque became a cultural punchline almost instantly on release, but is now in the top ten most-watched movies on Netflix (according to FlixPatrol).

Burlesque stars Christina Aguilera (in her film debut), Cher (in her film musical debut, somehow), Stanley Tucci (who was clearly asked to just do his performance from The Devil Wears Prada), and Kristen Bell in a movie that might be best described at the feature-length version of Aguilera’s “Lady Marmalade” video from Moulin Rouge! In true musical fashion, the story of Burlesque is about as simple and understandable as can be imagined: a small town girl wants to move to the big city and make it big as a professional dancer. Also in true musical fashion, that actual plot is a pretty thin excuse to have extended song-and-dance sequences.

Which, to be fair, is the entire reason why Burlesque exists (as well as to be Christina Aguilera’s launchpad to a film career). The movie was written and directed by Steve Antin, the brother of Pussycat Dolls founder and pop impresario Robin Antin; the film was reportedly inspired by the troupe’s stage shows in Los Angeles, which would frequently feature stars like Christina Aguilera, Christina Applegate, Gwen Stefani, and Brittany Murphy. As movies inspired by retro-pop dance shows go, Burlesque is surprisingly solid.

Once Christina Aguilera escapes her dead-end waitressing job in Iowa (in part by stealing from her jerk of a boss, a plot thread that does not affect the rest of the plot in any way), she swiftly finds herself in Cher’s burlesque club. After failing to land a job as a dancer, she starts waiting tables instead, waiting for her big break that eventually comes when Kristen Bell’s volatile, alcoholic star dancer is too drunk to perform. Christina Aguilera replaces her, Bell sabotages the lip-synching backing track, and the singer astonishes everyone by, well, singing.

christina aguilera

In one sense, it is completely logical that Christina Aguilera’s voice is heavily featured in Burlesque, considering she was known at the time for being one of her generation’s most dramatic vocal talents. On the other hand, singing is not a prominent feature of modern burlesque performance, which is kind of why no one is doing it in Cher’s club. 

Another movie might make a point of Christina Aguilera’s voice giving Cher’s club an edge against competing clubs, but it appears to be the only burlesque club in Los Angeles. The real competition is (what else?) a devious real estate mogul (Eric Dane) who is made slightly more realistic by wanting to build condos instead of bulldozing a shopping center. 

At the very least, Burlesque can be viewed as an extended series of music videos of Christina Aguilera in retro-lingerie. That should explain its current popularity on Netflix.