Saturday, 30 January 2016

Movie Review: Coyote Ugly (2000)


A trite romantic drama set in the world of bar top dancing, Coyote Ugly lines up and kicks out tired clich├ęs to fill the time between the many scenes of hot women cavorting on the bar to loud music.

Violet Sanford (Piper Perabo) leaves her New Jersey home and overweight toll booth operator dad Bill (John Goodman) to seek a career as a songwriter in New York City. Violet suffers from stage fright, a condition that also afflicted her late mother, and her inability to perform in front of a crowd hampers opportunities to get her material heard. Meanwhile she can't break through the front door of any of the record companies or talent agencies, and her apartment is robbed to compound her misery. Violet does meet handsome Australian burger flipper Kevin O'Donnell (Adam Garcia), and they start a relationship.

Desperate to find some employment, Violet stumbles onto work at Coyote Ugly, a rough and tumble bar owned by Lil Lovell (Maria Bello, portraying the real-life bar owner), where attractive waitresses including Cammie (Izabella Miko) and Rachel (Bridget Moynahan) rev up customers with seductive bar top dances. The timid Violet can't join the dancing but eventually finds the courage to sing along with the jukebox. Kevin insists that she not give up on her dream to be a serious song writer and prods her to overcome her stage fright. Her dad Bill is crushed when he discovers what kind of bar Violet is working at, and Kevin's pushiness threatens to rupture the one remaining good relationship in her life.

Directed by David McNally and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Coyote Ugly is based on a magazine article by none other than Elizabeth Gilbert, who would go on to write more mawkish material like Eat, Pray, Love. The film is an unapologetic excuse to feature plenty of bar top dancing scenes, micro-edited down to artificially create energy and remove any traces of talent on either side of the camera. With a script apparently penned by an uncoordinated army of eight writers, Coyote Ugly is a standard innocent-girl-in-the-big-bad-city-falls-in-love story, the dancing scenes attempting to chase away the dullness but only adding another layer of asininity.

In this world a hip shake and a shoulder shimmy are inexplicably enough to send bar patrons into a whooping frenzy while the alcohol pumps kick into overdrive. The girls prance up and down the bar, spraying customers with water, juggling bottles and breathing fire, creating a wet dream environment for the young adolescent mind. For everyone else, no amount of gyration can cover up the utter banality of both the story and the action at the bar.

The struggle-to-make-it and romance elements are pulled from the laborious drawer. Every career door slams in Violet's face with a thud, stage fright is a hackneyed emotional hurdle, and lover-to-be Kevin is a remarkably charming and available prince in cook's clothing but of course he hides his own deep dark sob story.

Coyote Ugly is saved from being an utter debacle by Piper Perabo, the relative unknown plucked from obscurity and dropped into the lead role for a big budget production. Perabo is much better than the material deserves, and she somehow rises above the dross to deliver a relatively genuine and empathetic performance. Perabo combines small town smarts with a sharp edge and quick wit, and avoids most of the dopey innocence that typically accompanies the role.

The rest of the cast is more consistent with the sluggish story, with Goodman in particular veering towards obesity in both weight and melodrama. Tyra Banks has a small role as a former bar top dancer and LeAnn Rimes appears briefly as herself.

Coyote Ugly refers to waking up sober after a one night stand, and feeling the urge to gnaw off, coyote style, an arm trapped under a repulsive man. The film is not quite that bad, but does leave behind the sense of time wasted chasing an ill-conceived impulse.






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