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Coyote Ugly

Rated [PG-13], minutes
Starring Piper Perabo, Maria Bello, John Goodman, Melanie Lynskey, Adam Garcia
Screenplay by Gina Wendkos
Directed by David McNally

IN SHORT: How the heck did this thing avoid teevee?

Tell me if you've heard this one before . . . Innocent girl, not from New York City, heads to the Big Apple in search of her dream to become a successful songwriter. There, with dreams mashed to a pulp, she finds self-assurance, love and a happy ending after posing as an ex-nun in a bar where the women bartenders balance fantasy fulfillment with crowd control and run the rockingest party in town. . . yeah, I thought so.

How Jerry Bruckheimer managed to produce a movie without a single explosion or car crash is quite beyond me. Like almost everything out of his stable, there are a couple of fights and the soundtrack is almost wall to wall hit rock and the women stars are just as generically stereotypical as any of the male stars in his movies. Without the distraction of explosions to blind the eye and deafen the ear, the story arcs are so damned predictable that only the soundtrack -- and the ladies teasing the crap out of the paying customers as they dance and wiggle on top of the bar -- keep Coyote Ugly chugging along.

And that being said, Cranky can't lie to you folks. Coyote Ugly was more fun than painful to sit through. The formula here is so rigid that you could sit through the film blindfolded and not miss any of the details of the dramatic arcs. You would miss the sight of the ironically named "coyotes" of the bar line dancing on a bar filled with fire, or getting doused with anything liquid -- stuff you'd pay much more to see in a lapdance bar. This story is based on a real life New York bar, a raunchy dive until yuppies got hold of it and made it an in place to hang out. As modified for the big screen, all the raucousness and flash more than hold the attention (yeah, OK, and the girls...) for the first half of the flick. It's a steady coast from that point on. And boy were the audience reactions interesting. But first . . .

Violet Sanford (Piper Perabo) and her dad (John Goodman) live in South Amboy, New Jersey, forty two miles and a world away from the Big City. Dad, a toll collector, needs to lose weight, and is as protective of his only daughter as she is of him. But Vi has dreams of making it as a songwriter, so she packs up and moves to a Chinatown New York tenement whose doors are about six deadbolts short of secure. She tries to get her tape heard, and fails. She's introduced to "Mr. O'Donnell" (Adam Garcia), a music manager who isn't about to help her, 'cuz he's not in the biz at all. Once New York has ground Vi under it's unforgiving boot heels, she stumbles into a job at the bar of the title.

That bar is a nonstop frat party, the best on "campus". You wait to get in. You drink to fall down, encouraged by the women who are never available. All have roles to play -- Lil (Maria Bello), the tough broad (and also the boss, though calling her that will get you fired); Rachel the Bitch (Bridget Moynahan), Cammie the Tease (Izabella Miko) and occasionally Zoe (Tyra Banks) -- and when the customer can't drink anymore, out they go.

Once the music stops, what passes for heavy story development drops in to say hi. Figure it out for yourself: an introvert in an extrovert bar; a new boyfriend; a sick father and, of course, there's a happy ending, involving a singing star too young to even buy a drink at the bar. Oh, the irony. Between the music and the ladies and regular pauses to catch it's breath, Coyote Ugly is the best teevee movie that never made it to the little screen. Though there's one writing credit (Gina Wendkos), the folks that track product development show at least four others with their hands in the pie (Todd Graff, Kevin Smith, Aaron Sorkin and Jeff Nathanson). How it holds together as well as it does is a credit to a kickass soundtrack and tight leather pants. . . and the work of John Goodman, who is as close to a ground as this live wire of a flick is ever gonna get.

If I were fifteen, Coyote Ugly would've been the best movie I've ever seen. But I'm not and neither is it.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Coyote Ugly, he would have paid . . .


Coyote Ugly is much closer to a Gen X dateflick (which would be the $5 rating level) than I'll allow it credit for. It's at video level 'cuz, as fine as the ladies are, you can't freeze frame a big screen movie.

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