Moreover, the numbers are thrown haphazardly into the story (about five seconds after Brand’s character tells us he isn’t a singer, he bursts into song; Zeta-Jones’s band of pastel-wearing church ladies talks about hating rock, then lets loose with “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”). Often they’re staged awkwardly; a big number in Tower Records just seems silly and contrived, while in many cases what is meant to be an anarchic sense of humor simply comes across as gross. If you want to see a hopeless romantic sing a love ballad while urinating in a disgusting men’s room, this is your movie.
The director, Adam Shankman (Hairspray), cuts bizarrely and confusingly from one set piece to another without making it clear whether we’re going forward in time, backwards, or whether we’re viewing a fantasy entertained by the character. Nor does he bother to use the numbers to reveal anything about character; it is never clear whether Hough’s sweet Oklahoma girl is dying to let her decadent side out or whether L.A. corrupts and wounds her (by, for instance, turning her into a stripper). Is stripping empowering or demeaning? Neither: It’s just an excuse for some naughty pole dancing.