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by: Michael Dequina

To give credit where credit is due, the team over at Disney sure knew how to market Coyote Ugly. Five women wearing the best "do 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


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