Moulin Rouge

By Mark Ramsey | 2001/05/30

If you’re going to Moulin Rouge in hopes of seeing Marmalade ladies Christina, Pink, Mya, and ‘Lil Kim, boy are you going to be disappointed. Unless, of course, you’re referring to Christina Newton John, Pink Ann Margaret, Mya Julie Andrews, and ‘Lil Debbie Reynolds.

This here’s a musical, folks! And despite its ultra-hip production values and wink-wink aesthetic, in its breast beats an old-skool heart. Co-stars Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman are one harmony short of sailor outfits and a boogie with Jerry the mouse. Hear that noise? It’s Bob Fosse rhythm tapping in his grave!

Compared to Christina and company, the movie Moulin Rouge singers have infinitely fewer hits, considerably more body hair, and enough frilly underwear to wallpaper the Mall of America in a most inappropriate fashion. Hey, shoppers, are those garters or stalactites?


Give that Christina Aguilera credit. That babe can translate “Voulez-vous choucher avec moi” into any language, including those understood only by domesticated animals and Star Search judges. Giuchie, giuchie, ya ya dada, baby.

There’s something oddly engaging about this movie, and it’s not just the fact that I saw it for free although that, too, is oddly engaging. Too bad it takes ten times longer to sing dialogue than to just say it, already.

Trust me, nothing you see or read about this movie will prepare you for the delirious, delicious, dizzy thrill of Moulin Rouge. Did I hate it? Did I love it? Yes. And at the same time.

Good news! Nicole Kidman can carry a tune, if not a Tom. Nic is a courtesan, which is a barrister’s parmesan*. What’s more, Moulin Rouge is plush with supporting players whose look suggests the casting director raided the Emerald City of Oz and took anybody without wings.

This flick veers off-center from the very start when the lights go down and a tiny maestro appears at the foot of the stage to strike up the 20th Century Fox theme. Well, he looks like a maestro but he seems to have lost all motor control, his arms whirling madly like he’s trying to flag down a taxi in a Manhattan rainstorm. To the beat, dude, to the beat!

moulinrouge_eiffeltower.jpg‘s Paris in 1899, the Summer of Love, and the Moulin Rouge is a nightclub, a dancehall, and a bordello. In other words, it’s one Charlie Sheen short of Utopia.

This is a Paris where the shortest distance between every two points is straight through a big windmill. And every time you pass, it whooshes like you just passed a Star Wars Imperial Cruiser. Somebody take the camera into hyperdrive! Wookie wookie ya ya dada!

It’s a Paris where lavish color explodes everywhere, and earth tones are relegated to some other Earth, although not the Earth of Planet of the Apes because that’s not Earth and, for the hundredth time, that movie is not a remake but a “re-imagining” and don’t you forget it.

It’s a Paris where every time a head twists, swooshes, zips, and zooms sound out as if each neck contains a Foley artist itching to escape.

Moulin Rouge is chuckle-worthy whenever characters burst into familiar power ballads of the 70s and 80s – which is almost every scene. And with every lite favorite of yesterday and today, stage star Nic falls a little bit harder for penniless writer Ewan who, without his rat-tail, looks Obi-Wanderful, even if the concept of a writer bagging the star is fiction in the sincerest sense of the word.

Moulin Rouge is the latest askew concoction from askew auteur Baz Luhrmann. And this guy is definitely one hell of an artiste, albeit one I’d vote “most likely to wear women’s underwear.” Wow, what’s in that vegemite, Baz? You must have been more hammered than Hammerstein.

This American in Paris had a good time, but if an entrée stacked with corny medleys isn’t part of your well-balanced diet, best to eat elsewhere.

Photos Copyright ©2001 Twentieth Century Fox


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