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Just plain ugly


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Photo Courtesy Touchstone Pictures Piper Perabo (Violet Sanford), Maria Bello (Lil), Izabella Miko (Cammie), Bridget Moynahan (Rachel) and Tyra Banks (Zoe) star in "Coyote Ugly." A film with lots to look at and little to understand as "Coyote" falls short.

By Ty Young
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
August 2, 2000
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Arizona Summer Wildcat

Contrived plot line, tiresome dialogue leave 'Coyote Ugly' in the drunk tank

The filmmakers of "Coyote Ugly" proved one important point with their film - drunken, half-naked female bartenders dancing and writhing atop a bar are a sad replacement for intelligent dialogue, proper character development and realistic plot.

Directed by motion picture newcomer David McNally, "Coyote Ugly" depicts the tired theme of a small-town woman attempting to realize her musical dreams in the heart of New York City. Piper Perabo ("The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle") plays Violet Sanford, an aspiring songwriter who moves from the garden state of New Jersey into the deepest depths of Gotham, where she is quickly hired as a bartender at Coyote Ugly.

Upon leaving her home for the big city, Sanford finds herself in unfamiliar territory. Not only is she faced with the harsh realities of big city life and the fact that nobody wants to purchase her songs, but she must also battle her fear of performing in front of a crowd.

Jumbled up in the story line is the bar - complete with the other five "Coyotes" who dance, sing, and drink nightly with bar patrons who cheer and beckon for the young women's' for attention. Sanford quickly finds a home with the other women at the bar and becomes an icon with the customers.

Although the movie title and marketing scheme rests solely on the basis of the bar scenes, it actually plays a very small role in the story line. In fact, the elements of the bar seem to be thrown in as mere eye candy for the male audience and empowering reference point for the female audience.

The movie ultimately fails at the hands of a loosely written plot that jumps between the bar, Sanford's love affair with Kevin O'Donnell (Adam Garcia), her connection to her past life in New Jersey and the future of her songwriting career. The audience is expected to trudge through a story line with absolutely no congruence between these main points.

For example, after Sanford and O'Donnell begin their hurried relationship, the young songwriter's life quickly falls by the wayside as her love interest, career and family life all crash at the same instant. This rushed plot line typifies the entire film, where quick bursts of action and drama fill the holes between mindless dialogue.

Not only is the story uneven, but the film lacks any semblance of character development. Although there are five female bartenders, the audience learns absolutely nothing other than their favorite dance moves and how well their leather pants fit. This again points to a loosely thrown together plot with characters who serve no purpose but to provide for a sexual tease.

Perabo plays the innocent Sanford well, but over the course of the film, her acting becomes stale. Until the final scene, she rarely deviates from the solemn, depressed girl seeking to find a home in the city. When she does, however, the change is so drastic and unbelievable that the entire scene suffers.

Sanford's quick acclimation to the bar lifestyle is even more unbelievable. Again, the story line dances along the lines of reality, as bartenders perform illegal acts like drinking with customers and pouring liquor into the open mouths of patrons. Not only does Sanford learn the art of bartending in record time, she also displays the vibe of a seasoned performer - not the star-struck songwriter that the plot would have audiences believe.

John Goodman, who plays Violet's father Bill, is the loan bright spot in the film. His lovable demeanor and portly stature give a humorous, warm-hearted character that audiences will find very appealing. Goodman, forever type-cast as a father figure, plays the part well, connecting splendidly with Perabo.

Although his character was not developed nearly enough, Garcia gives a witty, stable character to offset his melancholy counterpart Sanford. He is plagued by pathetic, predictable dialogue while finding himself in precarious, rushed scenes. Still, he delivers his lines well, and makes is character believable for the most part.

"Coyote Ugly" exemplifies all that is wrong in the film industry - the rehashing of an over-used story line with actors using their looks to overcome pathetic dialogue and a lack of insightful character development. Had McNally replaced the overt sexual scenes with some substance, the film may have had a chance to do more than provide eye candy for immature audiences desperately hoping to see some hint of nudity.

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