Barry C Chung
In her debut lead acting role, Christina Aguilera shows she is more than just 'the little girl with the big voice': she can actually hold her own on screen.
Small-town girl Ali (Aguilera) moves to Los Angeles to pursue a career in showbiz. After being rejected as a performer several times by Tess (Cher), the owner of the Burlesque Lounge, she settles for a job as a cocktail waitress.
Predictably, Ali eventually gets her big break and lands a spot on stage. Her powerful vocals are soon the talk of the town. Her success wins her a rich suitor, Marcus (Eric Dane), while bartender Jack (Cam Gigandet) competes for her affection.
Aguilera plays the small-town girl with surprising panache. Her toned-down look emphasises Ali's girl-next-door quality. Cher was born to play her role. She has a cynical comedic punch that contrasts nicely with Ali, whom she begins to mother.
Burlesque banks on the audience's familiarity with Aguilera. We know a little secret from the start that the characters don't: Aguilera really can sing. That endears Ali to us all the more: we feel for her when she's down and root for her when she steps onstage.
This isn't Oscar material, but Aguilera debuts better than her singer-turned-actress peers Britney Spears and Mariah Carey did.