A chick “Cocktail” with a healthy dose of “Flashdance” glitz, Jerry Bruckheimer’s newest production is an unbelievably artificial, formulaic fable about a rather dimwitted New Jersy naif named Violet (Piper Perabo) who relocates to NYC to follow her dream as an aspiring songwriter, only to wind up as a bartender/singer/dancer/bouncer at the wild and rowdy titular joint, where lots of T&A is dispensed along with the booze. Our intrepid heroine wins over the establishment’s hard-as-nails owner, Lil (Maria Bello) with her combination of innocence and spunk, while gradually cementing a romance with a cute-as-a-button Aussie (Adam Garcia), who also happens to collect rare Spiderman comics (each character must have one defining quirk, after all). But Vi faces two obstacles to realize her personal goal: she suffers from an overwhelming case of stage fright (though only when singing her own– suppposedly wonderful–ditties, curiously enough; somebody call Dr. Freud), and her heartwarming, comically obese father (John Goodman), an affable toll taker, is shocked, shocked to discover the (ahem) explicit business his baby is engaged in at the bar. Will Vi eventually overcome her phobia and make it as a chanteuse, belting out her lyrics to an eager public? Will she and sweet immigrant Kevin finally clinch? Will Daddy set aside his embarrassment and grow proud of his little girl again? Will the seams in Vi’s (and the other Coyotes’) skin-tight tops and undersized jeans survive the stress of the extravagant choreography to which they’re subjected, or will the garments pop apart and slide away before our astonished eyes?
If the answers to these questions aren’t already painfully obvious to you, you might enjoy “Coyote Ugly.” Otherwise you’ll have to content yourself watching Goodman doing his lovable fat-guy shtick one more time. It’s an old routine, but it still works. (You could say that Goodman steals the movie, but surely it’s a case of the pettiest sort of larceny.) Perabo is awful as dear, dopey Vi, the simpering ingenue who turns into a slick chick, and since she also stars in “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle” as the inept FBI agent, she has the singular distinction of appearing in two of the summer’s biggest bombs. Garcia’s extravagant smile and boyish perkiness grow tiresome after a while; he’s a personable fellow, but seems to think he’s far more charming than he actually is. The remaining barmaids–Izabella Miko, Bridget Moynahan and Tyra Banks–have little to do but shake their fannies and act seductive, tasks they manage effortlessly. For those interested in such things, LeAnn Rimes makes a brief appearance toward the close.
“Coyote Ugly” has the flashy, high-gloss look of all Bruckheimer’s pictures, and it’s directed in the usual overwrought style by David McNally, whose background in music videos and commercials is made abundantly clear by its hyperkineticism and emotional emptiness. When all is said and done, it’s a terrible movie, but it might appeal to viewers who consider “Flashdance” and “Footloose” deep works of art. And it could have been worse: at least it doesn’t star Bruckheimer’s current favorite, Nicolas Cage. It’s truly horrible to picture Nic in ultra-tight flair pants and cowboy boots, stomping out a western dance in tandem with fellow drink-servers atop a bar and surrounded by whooping customers. The image isn’t quite as bizarre, perhaps, as the absurd thought of him in red-and-white tights and cape as the lead in the proposed new “Superman” flick, but it’s pretty frightening nonetheless.