Violet Sanford (Piper Perabo) has big dreams and plans to be a songwriter although she's not confident about performing her own material. Today she is moving out of the New Jersey home she lives in with her father (John Goodman), and he isn't happy that she's moving to New York, but she won't be dissuaded. After needling a grudging admittance out of him that she might be making the right decision, Violet goes outside to meet her best friend Gloria (Melanie Lynskey) who will drive her to her new apartment, and what a dingy little place it turns out to be. Gloria is tearful at leaving her pal behind there, and puts a roll of notes she has saved in the freezer compartment of her fridge to help out, then Violet is on her own. With unaccommodating neighbours banging on the walls when she starts playing her songs, she takes her keyboard and guitar to the roof to write and practice, yet events will take an unexpected turn in the shape of a new bar job...
Coyote Ugly was scripted by Gina Wendkos and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, as if to prove he wasn't neglecting the female half of the moviegoing audience. But would they fall for the pandering of this film? The reviews at the time suggested that it was so bad it was unintentionally funny, but its studied cheesiness tapped into the emotions of quite a few. After all, songs like Charlene's "I've Never Been To Me" have made a lot of money, as has trillionaire Diane Warren whose "Can't Fight the Moonlight" is featured prominently here, and this project was apparently designed to appeal to women who sang "I Will Survive" at karaoke (and not bother about missing lines out, as Violet and co. do here).
The Holy Grail of the chick flick was to be as lucrative and long lasting as the queen of the modern genre, Dirty Dancing, still consistently voted as favourite even though it has Patrick Swayze in it. If Coyote Ugly didn't quite hit those heights, it wasn't for want of trying as every scene has been honed to a keen edge of sentiment as if it were fashioned on a production line, a shopping sequence here, a meeting cute between Violet and Australian potential boyfriend Kevin (Adam Garcia) there. But what of that bar? Well they must be losing money because they spend more time splashing the drinks around than they do serving them, usually by barmaids standing on top of the bar and gyrating. It's OK though, because this establishment is run by a woman, the tough minded Lil (Maria Bello).
Violet secures a job there to support herself, and nearly loses it on her first night but her fight breakup skills mean she is taken on permanently, or at least until the songwriting provides her with a living. That's nothing compared to the way she stops an outbreak of rowdy violence with the power of karaoke, proving something meaningful about the power of music. Probably. All the while, her relationship with Kevin blossoms after a bumpy start, and soon they are throwing fish around together, a sure sign that they are meant to be a couple. As all this goes on, Violet has to pluck up the courage to perform her songs to sell them, and changes her mind so often about doing so you're driven up the wall by her indecision. And all that product placement as well, which occurs in just about every scene: when Violet gets the call that her father is in hospital, you expect it to be from a heart attack from all that promoted junk food. It would be easier to take if Coyote Ugly's traditional tale wasn't presented with such cynical, button-pushing corniness, but it's not the worst film you'll ever see. Music by Trevor Horn.