Looking Back: Coyote Ugly (2000)

I hate “Coyote Ugly.” That’s not a good place to start for a movie review but I thought I’d come clean and go from there.

Rehashing the story just makes me angry but here it is: Violet (played by Piper Perabo) leaves her home to pursue her dream of becoming a country singer in…Nashville, Tennesee? Nope. Hollywood, California? Uh-ugh. Houston, Texas? Nope, wrong again. In order to become the next Shania Twain, Violet goes to New York City, The Big Apple. Fifteen years later, it still doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Once Violet finds life in the city to be a challenge, she hits rock bottom and gets a job at Coyote Ugly, a grimy watering hole where the all-female drink mixers occasionally dance on the bar. They also have a Coyote Code and a sense of sisterly values. Rather than sense that no bartending job should come with this much baggage, Violet accepts the job from the owner, Lil (Maria Bello). After the obligatory montage of her dropping drinks and bombing on the job, Violent eventually learns to cut loose, embrace her inner Coyote and shake her ass onstage with the rest of her sorry, too-attractive-to-be-working-at Coyote-Ugly co-workers. Her colleagues include the Tough One (Bridget Moyniham), the Cute One (Izabella Miko) and the Supermodel-Turned-Actress One (Tyra Banks). Lil herself is a tough-talking, self righteous bore, whose institution seems hell bent on reversing every bit of progress made in history by feminism, female empowerment, equality and even the weaker episodes of “Oprah.”

Violet falls in love with Kevin (Adam Garcia), whose strongest quality is his accent, which is so distinct it sounds fake. While keeping an apartment in New York, she continues to see Kevin and maintains employment at Coyote Ugly, though there is the second act plot twist where she gets fired and is accused of giving the bar a bad name. There’s also Violet’s Dad, played by John Goodman, who is to this movie what Al Pacino is to “Gigli”: a ray of sunshine surrounded my cloudy muck.

This unholy mix of “Cocktail” and “Flashdance” features a final scene that, I’m convinced, was designed to hurt me. In the closing moments of this movie (which I’m happy to spoil), Perabo coaxes her Dad (remember, it’s John Goodman) to do a (mercifully brief) erotic coyote dance, while Leanne Rhimes randomly appears and starts singing Perabo’s insipid “You Can’t Fight the Moonlight.”

coyote 1

Here’s some more things to hurt your brain: the director, David McNally, only made one other movie, the horrible talking Kangaroo in the Outback comedy, “Kangaroo Jack.” Starring in that film were Jerry O’Connell, Estella Warren, Christopher Walken and, as the voice of Kangaroo Jack, none other than Adam Garcia. Have accent, will travel.

coyote 2

According to Box Office Guru, the exit polls on “Coyote Ugly” during its opening weekend showed that 76% of audiences considered it “Excellent” or “Very Good.” Considering that “Space Cowboys” and “Hollow Man” opened the same weekend, I wonder who this audience was, how their good taste could have led them to “Coyote Ugly” and what other masterpieces they believed to be Excellent or Very Good.

coyote poster

Perabo, whose starred in this and “The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle” in the same summer, is adorable and, in better, later films in her career, proved to be a good actress. Here, the camera likes her (and all of her co-stars) but she’s no Jennifer Beals and the plot, likewise, can’t make us believe in this tale of a gal taking her passion and making it happen. Odd, since both “Flashdance” and “Coyote Ugly” were both produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.

“Coyote Ugly” was a success in theaters and, to my horror, inspired a series of actual bars nationwide. In fact, there’s still a Coyote Ugly at the 16th Street Mall in Denver, right outside of the movie theater where I used to catch most of my weekly screenings. Every time I’d go see a movie, I’d have to walk past Coyote Ugly. Let me bring this full circle: I hate “Coyote Ugly.”

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