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'Coyote Ugly'

Bimbo alert: Bar life in 'Coyote Ugly' is not a pretty sight

Friday, August 04, 2000

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

In Hollywood shorthand, "Coyote Ugly" is "Flashdance" meets "Cocktail" meets MTV meets a rockin' beer commercial. Garnish with a story about a girl trying to make her dream -- and, as fate would have it, that of her late mother -- come true.

'Coyote Ugly'

Rating: PG-13 for sensuality

Starring: Piper Perabo, John Goodman

Director: David McNally

Web Site:

Critics Call: 1 1/2 stars


Notice anything original there? Neither did I.

Although it might seem that the bar in "Coyote Ugly" is as likely to exist as the one in "Flashdance" (especially since Jerry Bruckheimer produced both movies), it turns out it does. The movie was suggested by a GQ magazine article about the Coyote Ugly Saloon in New York's East Village. The screenplay seems to have been lifted from old movies about spunky girls moving to the big city where they encounter disappointment and pain -- but just initially -- and then true love and fulfillment.

"Coyote Ugly" is about a Jersey girl named Violet (Piper Perabo) who quits her pizza parlor job and moves to a filthy Chinatown apartment so she can become a songwriter. Her widowed father (John Goodman) is not thrilled; beneath the bearlike bluster, he's worried about his daughter.

When Violet discovers that she can't just walk into the William Morris agency to leave her demo tape, she tries an open-mike night. But stage fright prevents her from performing her own music. Strapped for cash, she turns to a place called the Coyote Ugly, where the brazen barmaids can earn $300 a night.

They serve booze to an overflow crowd but they also line dance on the bar, cut off men's ponytails, spray the patrons with water, douse themselves, do fire-breathing tricks and swing from the pipes above the serving area. As Violet pursues her musical career, she also falls for a mysterious Aussie (Adam Garcia) who is as supportive as he is charming and handsome.

Into every movie a little conflict must fall, and it does here when dad gets a sample of Violet's work and the inevitable lovers' quarrel occurs.

Watching "Coyote Ugly" is like being the only non-drinker at a raucous party. Everyone seems to be having such a great time but you.

The writer and stars would have you believe it's all about "empowerment," but it's all about the chicks attired in snakeskin pants and leather vests and teeny T-shirts. In addition to Perabo, the coyotes include Maria Bello, a onetime doc on "ER"; Polish-born dancer Izabella Miko; Veronica Hamel lookalike Bridget Moynahan, who plays Mr. Big's wife on "Sex and the City"; and supermodel Tyra Banks.

In the end, "Coyote Ugly" is a brainless cliche-filled effort with a hit soundtrack that leans heavily on songs performed by LeAnn Rimes (who warbles for Violet) plus crowd-pleasers such as "I Will Survive" and "Devil Went Down to Georgia."

Perabo, who has Julia Roberts lips and a Katie Holmes little-girl voice, doesn't so much act as alternately appear sweet, flirtatious, determined, sad, liberated, mournful, thoughtful, etc. She and Miko have one of those now-standard "Pretty Woman" scenes where they go shopping and try on clothes.

The standouts of "Coyote Ugly" are John Goodman and Garcia, who has sex appeal plus an Australian accent. Garcia played Tony Manero in the London production of "Saturday Night Fever" and will star with Drew Barrymore in "Riding in Cars with Boys." Look for him at the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Sydney.

As a toll-booth operator, Goodman is funny and touching and real. Word has it he was recalled to shoot extra scenes and it's easy to see why. He's a true heavyweight in every sense of the word.

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