Movie Review: Coyote Ugly


I need to do a non-law related post, but law school has occupied essentially all of my mental real estate the last couple of weeks. Still, I found time last night (between 1 AM and 3:30 AM) to watch Coyote Ugly. I'm glad I did; I believe I have found the Funky Town of film.

What I mean by that is, just as I feel Funky Town is the platonic ideal entertainingly bad song, I now feel that Coyote Ugly is the platonic ideal entertainingly bad movie (I realize not everyone shares my opinion on Funky Town. Feel free to substitute your own favorite terrible song in its place).

Coyote Ugly tells the story of Violet, a young woman who aspires to be a songwriter. She decides to follow her dreams by packing her bags and moving to the Big City. This is preceeded by a lot of long, heart-felt goodbyes and terrible, terrible speeches. This is the screenplay's first major misstep. We are expected to become emotionally invested in her move from the small town to the big city. She's making her way somewhere new and exciting! She's all alone and on her own! She's leaving everyone she grew up with behind and forging her own path in a foreign land! But the screenwriters didn't want her moving too far from home, because they wanted to bring her dad (played by John Goodman) in for occasional wacky hi-jinks. So her hometown is South Amboy, New Jersey. They drive the silliness of all this home by mentioning off-handedly that South Amboy is 41 miles from New York City. So she's making it by herself... less than an hour from home. This makes a lot of the movie seem melodramatic and pointless. She has a house 41 miles away. There's no real reason why she should be living in New York City; she can do the aspiring song-writer thing just as easily from home, driving into the city for gigs and pavement-pounding. Granted, she wants independence, she's starting her own life, etc. But whenever her ability to maintain herself in New York is threatened, the prospect of going home is seen as The Death of All She's Ever Dreamed Of. It clearly isn't; going home means The Death Of Her Somewhat More Convenient Commute.

She doesn't get any leads selling her music, except the following apparently iron-clad law: If you want to make it as a song-writer, the only way to do it is on the open mic circuit singing your own songs. I'm willing to buy that. I don't know enough about the music business to know where song-writers come from, and that seems plausible. But it's problematic for Violet because she is ineluctably shy about singing songs she has written. More on this later. She meets a guy with a cute face and an annoying Australian accent who will eventually become the love interest. And, out of desperation, she takes a job at a bar called Coyote Ugly.

As you know from the previews, Coyote Ugly is a bar where the bartenders are all attractive women who dance on the bar. Every night, including weeknights, the bar is packed wall to wall, because even though their liquor selection is poor (cheap tequila, cheap scotch, and cheap beer, marked up to thrice its normal asking price) this bar has hot women dancing on the bar. There's no stripping, no sex, just well-choreographed line dancing. If this movie were your only source of information about New York City, you might assume that women were incredibly scarce there, and that most New Yorkers would brave long lines to get into a terrible bar just for the opportunity to get a fleeting glance at one.

Violet is nervous about her new job at first, but eventually she finds her schtick: Standing on the bar and singing along to the juke box. This act is apparently so mind-blowingly awesome that it can stop a bar riot in its tracks. Further, it brings in hordes of new customers. Which throws the movie's biggest plothole into sharp relief: Violet is shy, but only about singing her own songs in front of other people. She can dance on a bar without any problem. She can stand on a bar and sing other people's songs. She can sing her own songs into a microphone and give the tape to other people. But she can't sing her own songs to others in person. Now, I sympathize with stage fright, but this is just bad writing. She's not shy about singing, she's not shy about singing in public, and she's not shy about people hearing her own songs, sung by her onto a tape. She is, in fact, boisterous about all of these activities. But when she has to sing her songs in public, she curls up into the fetal position. This is an astoundingly specific psychosis: "I'm afraid of visiting the third story of buildings after I get on the elevator on the fifth floor, but only on the second Tuesday in April."

Most of the movie is spent watching her blossoming romance with the Australian fellow, who helps her work through her oddly idiosyncratic stage fright by having sex with her in front of a bunch of cardboard cutouts of famous people. This is the movie's one redeeming scene. Granted, it's an entirely gratuitous sex scene, but Australian Guy actually has a really cute butt. Or at least his nude double does. In any case, there is a cute butt in the scene, and it makes the scene worthwhile.

The movie sort of meanders for two hours with a lot standard-issue plot conflicts thrown in at random (Australian Guy's dark past, Violet's father's disapproval of her job, Violet's father getting ill, Violet getting fired over a misunderstanding, Violet getting re-hired, Violet and Austrialian Guy breaking up over a misunderstanding, then getting back together, and of course, Violet getting her big break and becoming a star). Conflicts are introduced and resolved within minutes, and nothing of significance happens until the movie ends.

Having said that, it was a fun movie to watch. There isn't a single scene in the film that won't make you giggle at some point about how unrealistic and contrived it is. And to the movie's credit, the dialogue is at least reasonably snappy. It's decently acted for what it is, and the cinematography is agreeable. It suffers from a terrible script that goes nowhere, does nothing, and befuddles the viewer with its fundamental disconnect from reality.

I've heard this movie described as Showgirls without stripping. That's true only in the sense that they both use the same hackneyed plot. This movie is far less self-important than Showgirls, but it's also more competently made. The acting is better and the characters, while underdeveloped, are more likeable. It's a lot less painful to watch than Showgirls, but maintains the consistent level of goofiness you need to make a bad movie truly great. Recommended.


Coyote Ugly isn't so-bad-it's-good, it's so-bad-it's-really-bad

I think you just don't appreciate a good bad movie.

And besides! What about Irish Guy's Dark Secret Past? What about Tyra Banks's amazing acting? What about setting the bar on fire in one scene, then later IN THAT SAME SCENE having a plot point revolving around entertaining the bored fire marshall who DOESN'T CARE about the fact that the bar was a RAGING INFERNO five minutes ago? These are the signs of true bad movie genius.

Let me speak on the indifferent fire marshal...especially in NYC.

I have quite a bit of experience with local fire marshals, and most don't give a hoot about fire issues beyond what can line their pockets a little more. I've had FM's arbitrarily request that we change 5 sprinkler heads out of 500, and then decide that he has to come back to check our work. Not that he cares about sprinkler heads, but because he gets paid nearly 1000 dollars each time he comes to visit.

I've also had fire marshals threaten to shut down stores because we hadn't called him out for his (non-needed) phase by phase inspection. There was no reason to shut the job down, fire-code wise, but again, he wasn't getting his money.

But back to the topic, Coyote Ugly is a good movie, for red-blooded male heterosexuals (or lesbians) who want to see scantily clad women dance on bars. Its not unlike Girls Gone Wild, but with a plot.

I think a plausible argument could be made for the attractiveness of Coyote Ugly to those with male-inclined tastes, subject to the important caveat that the person in question find Adam "Australian Guy" Garcia to their taste. Particularly in the unrated version which features him (or possibly his body double) in a gratuitous sex scene. Even without it, though, he does that strip tease on the bar.

Granted, though, the ratio of women to men in the movie is heavily skewed.

As for the fire marshall: Ah-ha. That makes sense. Of course, I still have to wonder about a fire marshall so singularly focused on bribes/personal financial well-being that he doesn't even consider pouring alcohol on a bar and then igniting it to be worthy of mention.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on January 26, 2006 2:40 PM.

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