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COYOTE UGLY (director: David McNally; screenwriter: Gina Wendkos; cinematographer: Amir Mokri; editor: William Goldenberg; cast: Piper Perabo (Violet Sanford), Adam Garcia (Kevin O’Donnell), Maria Bello (Lil), Melanie Lynskey (Gloria), Izabella Miko (Cammie), Bridget Moynahan (Rachel), Tyra Banks (Zoe), Del Pentecos (Lou, The Bouncer), Michael Weston (Danny), John Goodman (Bill Sanford); Runtime: 94; Touchstone Pictures; 2000)
“This is one of those films that you feel ashamed you saw.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is one of those films that you feel ashamed you saw. The characters appear to be not as bad as they seem, or as good as they seem–they just seem to be vapid. It is a film that has no direction or sense of what it wants to say, except to look good like commercials do and with the hope that it can be accepted as a “feel good” movie by the kind of public that will see anything in the summer as long as the film moves along at a fast pace and the theater is air-conditioned.

Everything about this film is a sham, from the repulsive bar it highlights to the inane relationship it features. It felt like I was dropped into a pit with some of the most obnoxious types you would ever want to meet and was told that the only way to get out of this trap, was to shake my ass like they do.

The producer who brought us this piece of schlock is the schlockmeister himself, Jerry Bruckheimer, the producer of such feeble projects as Flashdance, Top Gun, and Armageddon, who has lived up to his low standards with “Coyote Ugly.”

Violet (Piper Perabo) is an aspiring songwriter from South Amboy, New Jersey, who lives with her widower dad, Bill (John Goodman). Violet is a wholesome girl, with no noticeable tattoos, body piercing, or drug habit. Violet also has a pleasing voice, except she freezes when she has to perform in public. Violet’s mother was a singer but didn’t pursue her goal when she got married to Violet’s father who worked as a NJ State toll booth collector, and she told Violet that she always regretted not taking a chance and pursuing a musical career. Violet is the same age as her mother was when she went to the Big Apple. Now that Violet is off to the city, having quit her job in the pizza parlor, her dad worries about her safety, offering her the sound advice: “Don’t hesitate to use the pepper-spray.” Dad’s role is to be an adult, crack some jokes, try to give the film a heart, and not to seem too embarrassed when he is reduced to shaking his ass on top of that ugly frathouse dream bar the film has created to do its Flashdance formula film again– but this time without fresh music or a decent script.

After Violet’s lifetime friend Gloria (Melanie) helps her move into a shabby apartment in Chinatown, the hardship of breaking into the business hits home. Violet gets rebuffed in all her efforts to get her demo tape listened to and a bartender plays a cruel joke on her when she tries to get info from him, telling her that Mr. Kevin O’Donnell (Adam Garcia) is a record producer. When Violet hands Kevin her demo tape she finds out that he’s only a hamburger flipper, which is only one job among the many jobs the handsome Australian orphan needs in order to survive in this expensive city. Kevin’s only noteworthy habit is collecting rare comic books. After the shaky start they get off to he turns out to be a nice guy (Kevin doesn’t come onto her like an animal) and Violet slowly realizes that he’s handsome and available, so this uninteresting romance predictably takes place while she forges ahead with her career plans.

Everything seems to be going wrong for Violet. When Violet returns to her apartment, her place has been burglarized and ransacked. With little money left she goes with her head down to an all-night diner and the kindly owner, feeling sorry for her, gives her a free slice of pie. She gets all enthused when she overhears the next table’s loud conversation by three supermodel types dressed like sluts and sees them wave around the wads of money they earned and finds out that they are dancing bargirls in an East Village bar called Coyote Ugly. The bar features the Western look and Charlie Daniels Band type of country music, where the girls shake their asses on top of the bar and when not stomping on the bar, flirt with the sardine-like customers who are cramped together. It’s a scene fit for losers and imbeciles and producers who make films like this one. The girls are hired to lead the men on sexually, but are not allowed to go further than that.

The bar is run by the bold, blonde hussy, Lil (Maria Bello), who hires Violet on the spot as one of the dancing bargirls clad in sexy halter tops. The other star bargirls are Rachel (Bridget Moynahan) and Cammie (Izabella Miko), who are seen dancing atop the bar — which at times is in flames — doing slick moves when mixing drinks such as tossing glasses up into the stratosphere and squirting a hose full of water at their too eager customers. Because of all the trickery involved, doubles for the bargirls were used. Zoe (Tyra Banks), one of the other star bargirls, has just quit shaking her ass to become a law student, though she still looks like an ass shaker. The bouncer trying to control the sexually crazed, drunken crowd of mostly men and only a few women, is Lou. It seems odd to have only one enforcer in a place that is built for trouble but then again, hardly anything about this film made sense.

The film ends on this supposedly endearing note, as Piper Perabo innocently exclaims, after she successfully becomes a singer: “What do you do when you realize all your dreams have come true?”

The film was about Violet trying to convince her boyfriend and her father that the bar job is not as bad it seems. By the film’s end she will make it in the musical field, lose her fear of performing in public, go out with her nice boyfriend and reconcile with her lovable dad.

An actor could only hope to come out of a film like this unscathed, that Piper Perabo does is a credit to her. It is probably due to the innocent kindergarten teacher look she conveys. The film received a PG rating, despite its image of a bar from hell and its glorification of booze. Unfortunately, this sleazy film doesn’t even have any hot sex scenes to satisfy an audience you would think it might be appealing to. I haven’t a clue who this movie will please, but it sure didn’t please me.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”