Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Piper Perabo, Adam Garcia, Maria Bello, Melanie Lynskey, John Goodman, Isabella Miko, Bridget Moynahan, Tyra Banks, Bud Cort, LeAnn Rimes
Written by: Gina Wendkos
Directed by: David McNally
MPAA Rating: PG-13/Unrated
Running Time: 100
Date: 07/31/2000
IMDB

Coyote Ugly (2000)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Pretty on the Outside... Nothing on the Inside

by Jeffrey M. Anderson

Coyote Ugly could have been a classic "nudie" updated for the new century. RussMeyer and Roger Corman, among others, were kings of this genre with films likeVixen (1968) and Night Call Nurses (1972). Nowadays the "nudie" is called the"erotic thriller" and it usually goes straight to video, stars Shannon Tweed orJulie Strain, and comes in both R-rated and Unrated versions. But Coyote Uglyis neither bad enough to be a cult film, nor good enough to be interesting.

I think the point of the movie is that producer Jerry Bruckheimer is trying to duplicate the success of his (and his late partner Don Simpson's) early hit Flashdance (1983) for the Britney Spears crowd. But to my eyes, that's even sicker than simply making a big screen skin flick. It flaunts good-looking women the same as a skin flick would, but it pretends to be about making dreams come true. The trouble is, you'd better be a gorgeous babe if you want to succeed.

Lead coyote girl Piper Perabo (also in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle) plays Violet, a young songwriter who makes the big journey from New Jersey to New York City to realize her dream. She quickly finds out that she needs to perform on stage, but suffers crippling stage fright. So she gets a job at the Coyote Ugly bar, where five sexy barmaids dance on the bar and douse customers with seltzer, booze, and ice. There she finds that she can sing along with the jukebox with no sign of stage fright. Will she get up the nerve to sing her own songs in front of a crowd? Geez...

The four other coyotes (Tyra Banks, Maria Bello, Bridget Moynahan, and Izabella Miko -- as seen on the poster) have very minor parts and barely have any dialogue. Unfortunately, Perabo has far too much dialogue; all of it bad. Loooong stretches are devoted to "character" development with her boyfriend, an Aussie played by Adam Garcia. Not a single cliche goes unused. The only good stretches are the dancing, but Bruckheimer insists on his old Flashdance techniques of cutting away before we can get a good look at any lovely female body parts. John Goodman, as Violet's father, brings the only real substance to the movie. Despite his poor dialogue, his presence and acting skill make his character pop. (Once again, we need an award for Best Acting in a Bad Movie.) With the exception of Goodman, these actors--plus writer Gina Wednkos and director David McNally--are all unknowns, which means that Bruckheimer got them cheap. The only special effects in the movie are the five gorgeous bare midriffs dancing on the bar.

The thing that Violet has going for her is her looks. Like Britney Spears, she can play both the Cute card and the Sex Goddess card. Though Bruckheimer would argue she makes it on her talent alone, that's not the case. It's only through wearing skimpy clothes on stage and strutting and beckoning to the crowd that she sells her first song (in just a couple of months, mind you). Not to mention the cavorting on the Coyote Ugly bar. If this isn't exploitation, what is? Why doesn't the movie have the guts or the honesty to go all the way? Because it needs that 14-year-old green, that allowance money from all those Spears fans. If it had any real sex or skin, it would have received an R rating, which would eliminate most of its core audience. The thing is, Coyote Ugly will probably be just as big as Flashdance was, due to the fact that its audience wasn't even born when Flashdance came out.

All of which goes to prove Bruckheimer's monster business savvy. The man is a genius. I wonder, then, why he can't be bothered to make good movies instead of just brilliant packaging?

DVD Details: In 2005, Miramax released a new "Unrated Extended Cut" DVD, which corrected some, but not all, of the problems I outlined in my original 2000 review. Among the 7 minutes of new footage are close-ups of the dancers, a couple of slinky undressing scenes, and one sex scene with actual nudity, though it's obviously a body double standing in for Perabo. The new footage also has the advantage of slowing down the action enough so that it becomes clearer. That aside, the movie still has its stupid plot and dialogue to contend with, but in its new edition, it gets a little closer to Russ Meyer, midnight cult film territory. The disc also comes with a commentary track, several featurettes and a LeAnn Rimes music video.

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