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Movie Review

Violet has been itching to shake the dust off her small-town New Jersey sandals and head to the Big City for most of her young life. She wants to make it big as a rock ’n’ roll songwriter. Who doesn’t? So Violet takes the plunge, sets up shop in a crummy New York tenement, and starting pounding the pavement handing out demo tapes. The music industry rewards her effort by squashing her like a bug. Rejection after rejection leaves Violet despondent, broke (her apartment is robbed) and searching for any job she can find. She finds one at the Coyote Ugly, a rowdy singles bar that features dancing girls who sometimes double as waitresses. She’s timid at first, but when she gets into the groove, she steals the show. Her music career just got sidetracked. Or did it?

positive elements: Violet and her father, Bill, love each other and care for each other with gusto. Bill is mightily disappointed when he learns that his daughter is dancing at a bar and her pictures are turning into pinups. Broken-hearted, he says to her, "For the first time in my life I was ashamed of you. I never thought that would be possible." (Unfortunately, his disapproval is short-lived, leaving one to think his negative response originated from a knee-jerk reaction rather than a moral stand.) Likewise, Violet’s boyfriend, Kevin, expresses distaste for what she does (accusing her of losing her dignity), but he too "comes around" in the end.

spiritual content: Before she dances for the first time, Violet quips, "Forgive me father, for I have sinned."

sexual content: All of the dancing in the movie (and there’s a lot of it) is sensual and intended to be sexually provocative. The girls gyrate and twist, hoping to excite the male patrons and motivate them to spend more money at the bar. They pour pitchers of water over their bodies and even light alcohol on fire to make their point clear. Still, they don’t allow the raucous fans to touch them or make sexual advances towards them in any way. Bucketfuls of water squelch numerous attempts. When Violet begins working, she asks the bar owner why she hired her. The response? "The average man has a toddler living inside his pants. You look like a kindergarten teacher, they’ll love you!"

Kevin gets up on the bar with the girls and takes off his shirt, then unbuttons his pants while women bid money for a night alone with him. The camera looks on as Violet gets dressed and undressed (no nudity, just sensual glimpses). Violet takes her clothes off for Kevin, after which it is implied that the two have sex. A dancer takes her shirt off while playing a softball game hoping her bra will distract the male members of the opposing team. Also, one of the girls talks about experimenting with lesbian sex, and a group of them look at a Playboy magazine.

violent content: Several brawls erupt in the crowded bar. Kevin attacks a man who fondles Violet. In one scene, the crowd goes berserk and drags some of the girls off the bar and manhandles them (Violet calms the brouhaha by singing—a Hollywood concoction sure not to work in the real world).

crude or profane language: A handful of s-words. A handful of mild profanities. Coyote Ugly is about dancing, not swearing. A couple of times the crowd at the bar chants, "He-- no, H2O."

drug and alcohol content: Alcohol is everywhere. Since most of the movie takes place inside a bar, could it be any other way? At Coyote Ugly, the girls accept drinks from the patrons, a practice that leaves Violet quite intoxicated until a "colleague" shows her how to discreetly spit out her booze.

conclusion: Upon viewing the trailer for Coyote Ugly, I marveled that the film wasn’t slammed with an R-rating. Sexy cocktail waitresses dancing on top of a bar, alcohol flying, music pounding? That’s usually a sure sign that unbridled sexuality, nudity and other debauchery is close behind. Amazingly, here, the girls just dance. Yes, it’s sensual, sexual and decadent. But it’s a far cry from Striptease. It surprised me that a film so focused on sexuality also avoided sexual dialogue and innuendo almost entirely. There’s a few instances, but nowhere near the number one would expect from such a flick. Indeed, everything found in this movie is standard fare any given afternoon on MTV. That’s unfortunate, but it’s true.

Nobody going to see Coyote Ugly thinks they’re going to get treated to a great film. It’s all about the girls. Comparisons to Cocktail and Flashdance are already flying. Still, it’s preposterous that screenwriters relied so much on sensuality that they didn’t even bother to create a plausible story. For instance, Violet isn’t at all opposed to flaunting her body in front of throngs of salivating guys at Coyote Ugly, but she’s so consumed with stage fright that she can’t even sing her own songs at an open mic night nearby. Therefore, her music career stalls and she’s forced to continue "waitressing." Violet does get her break and she isn’t a "lifer" at the bar like so many of the others, but all the moral lessons and victory celebrations are a little late and little lite.

I’ll make it simple. Anyone too young to go to a bar shouldn’t see this film. Everyone else should know better.

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Piper Perabo as Violet; Adam Garcia as Kevin O’Donnell; Maria Bello as Lil; Melanie Lynskey as Gloria; Izabella Miko as Cammie; Bridget Moynahan as Rachel; Tyra Banks as Zoe; John Goodman as Bill; LeAnn Rimes in a cameo as herself


David McNally ( )


Touchstone Pictures



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Steven Isaac

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