“Coyote Ugly” is the story of a naive small-town girl who follows her dream to the Big City, where she is caught up in the violent, sexual world of bartending.
Doe-eyed Violet (Piper Perabo) leaves South Amboy, N.J., for New York City, hoping to become a songwriter. Plagued by chronic stage fright, though, she can’t perform the songs herself, nor can she make any headway in the music industry in order to sell them to professional singers.
So she does what any girl would do: She gets a job at a bar called Coyote Ugly, a rowdy Parthenon of rampant sexism where the bosomy bartenders don’t pour drinks nearly as often as they set fire to them and douse customers with them, taking time in between to dance on the counters, act sexually toward the clientele, and break any number of other health code and fire regulations.
The place is run by tough-as-nails Lil (Maria Bello), who keeps firing and re-hiring Violet, with Violet’s co-workers being the blonde tramp Cammie (Izabella Miko) and brunette dominatrix Rachel (Bridget Moynahan). All four women, together, nearly have enough personality to fill a shot glass.
Her lucrative job at the trashy bar helps Violet come out of her shell, and soon she’s up on the bar, shaking her potatoes and singing along to the jukebox. Unfortunately, she still can’t muster the courage to sing under normal, non-alcoholic conditions, and it seems she’s doomed to work forever in this hellish anti-Cheers.
Her savior is Kevin (Adam Garcia), an Australian transplant who is happy with his layabout life in New York, and who wants to help Violet become a success. The two fall in love. Violet’s protective father (John Goodman) is also in the movie, worried about his daughter in this awful environment until he finds out how much money she’s making. (This is a movie with a very strange code of ethics.)
First-time director David McNally makes this film every bit as stupid as you’d think, with ample help, one supposes, from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the King of Big, Stupid Movies (“Con Air,” “Armageddon,” “Gone in 60 Seconds”). It’s like a 90-minute beer commercial, with sopping-wet girls in tight clothes dancing on bars while male patrons hoot their approval, occasionally taking time out to have characters talk to each other, which is generally a bad idea, since the dialogue (by first-time film writer Gina Wendkos) is as amateurish and clunky as the plot.
You want to know how Violet discovers she can sing in public as long as it’s at Coyote Ugly? Things get out of hand one night — which inexplicably comes as a huge surprise to everyone — and while the place erupts into anarchy, a Blondie song plays on the jukebox. Violet picks up a microphone and starts singing along — and that gets everyone to calm down and pay attention to her. She saves the day with her super karaoke powers. If you can think of a dumber thing to happen in a movie, I’d like to shake your hand.
Even for a bad movie, this one isn’t very good: When it’s not hilariously lame, it’s rather boring. (What do you expect from a film whose only conflict is that a woman has stage fright?) Piper Perabo, who already used “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle” to prove she can’t act, solidifies it here. Adam Garcia, on the other hand, has some charm about him and does what he can to make things palatable. The always-likable John Goodman helps out, too. But no amount of charm from two supporting actors is going to outweigh the badness that sits at the center of this sophomoric, dim-witted slab of concrete.
D+ (; )