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Coyote Ugly

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Coyote Ugly

Starring: Piper Perabo, Maria Bello
Director: David McNally
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 110 Minutes
Release Date: August 2000
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Tyra Banks, Bridget Moynahan, Izabella Miko, Adam Garcia, John Goodman, Melanie Lynskey, Adam Alexi-Malle

Review by MrBrown
0 stars out of 4

To give credit where credit is due, the team over at Disney sure knew how to market _Coyote_Ugly_. Five women wearing the best "fuck me" expressions they could get away with on a PG-13 ad pout seductively on the poster, huddled up very close together as the tagline teases, "Tonight, they're calling the shots." The trailer takes the pandering a step further, showing these women in action at the titular New York nightspot, where not only do they serve the drinks, they also serve as the in-house entertainment: dancing atop the counters, groping each other, lighting fires, and--on really special occasions--spraying each other with water and splashing about.

With a promotional campaign like that, the studio had no trouble attracting long lines of recruited seatfillers to sweeten the press screening audience. But as tantalizing as the advertising is, it begs one eensy-weensy question: just what exactly is this film _about_? As the film as it wheezed its hackneyed way to its clichéd conclusion, it became plainly obvious why Disney went out of its way to skirt (yes, pun intended) the issue: _Coyote_Ugly_ is, quite simply, one of the corniest movies I have ever seen.

While there are a few high-energy bar scenes (more on those later) strategically placed to wake dozing audiences along the way, _Coyote_Ugly_ is actually the story of Violet Sanford (Piper Perabo), a 21-year-old from small-town New Jersey who moves to New York City in hopes of becoming a songwriter. But reality comes crashing down hard for this bumpkin, and soon she finds herself with only a couple of dollars and a lot of unwanted demo tapes to her name. Enter Zoe (Tyra Banks), Cammie (Izabella Miko), and Rachel (Bridget Moynahan), the women of Coyote Ugly--whom Violet encounters at an all-night diner as they celebrate the imminent departure of Zoe, who is off to (no joke) law school. Some convenient turns of the plot later, Violet (now nicknamed "Jersey") finds herself behind and on top of the counter at the insanely popular saloon under the watchful eye of tough-as-nails owner Lil (Maria Bello, who must now be kicking herself for leaving _ER_)--and the amorous watch of Kevin O'Donnell (Adam Garcia), a fry cook desperately smitten with Violet.

Anyone familiar with the oeuvre of producer Jerry Bruckheimer (as in a number of his efforts, the director here, music video vet David McNally, is but a faceless puppet) knows that action is where his interests and strengths lie, not anything resembling human emotion. So--all salacious reasons aside--_Coyote_Ugly_ only exhibits any signs of life during the slickly staged and edited bar scenes. These are the only scenes with real energy and spark, and--not surprisingly--Bruckheimer and McNally seem the slightest bit interested in what's going on (audiences will likely share that sentiment).

Unfortunately, it's the "emotion" that drives the script by Gina Wendkos (rewritten many times over by a number of uncredited scribes, including Kevin Smith--who, I must stress, is _not_ responsible for the labored comic book references in the film). The press notes call the film "a sexy romantic comedy," which in this case means trotting out all the usual clichés in Violet and Kevin's romance. Violet's ambition drives a wedge between them, as does his lack of it; and there's the trusty climactic moment where she catches him in a not-what-it-seems moment with an unknown blonde. Also intended to add an emotional dimension is Violet's relationship with her widowed father, toll booth attendant Bill (John Goodman). Goodman is funny and warm, but he's at the mercy of a script riddled with such "dramatic" dialogue such as "This is the first time I've ever been ashamed of you!" and the powerful "But you're my daughter!"

Then again, just about everything in _Coyote_Ugly_ is hard to believe, the most unbelievable being the fact that a worldwide talent search resulted in the casting of Perabo. Granted, her character already lacks credibility as written--Violet believes she's cursed with "stage fright DNA" (her deceased singer mother had the same problem); the great "talent" we're supposed to respect and root for is her ability to churn out assembly line bubblegum pop--but Perabo does nothing to remedy that. She smiles; she shakes her groove thing; she crinkles up her face in a vain attempt to squeeze out some tears. I don't know what exactly you call that, but I know it's not called "acting"...

...making her the perfect "star" to anchor _Coyote_Ugly_, which practically dares the every viewer not to hang his or her head in disbelief at every turn. My breaking point finally came around midfilm, when Violet, on the roof of her apartment building, guitar and keyboard in tow, struggles to write a folksy ballad. Suddenly, her concentration is broken by the hip-hop music booming from an apartment across the street. After a pause, she starts singing and has a eureka--her lyrics fit the beat! Excited, she runs to her keyboard and starts playing along. What talent! What brilliance! What complete, utter bullshit!

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