The people behind “Flashdance” have delivered another movie with about the same level of believabilty, but with little less flash and a lot less dance. You won’t see much more dance on screen than you do in the commericals. There are no full-fledged dance numbers, just snippets of glorious long legs stomping on the bar and glimpses of glorious upper bodies as the girls hose down the paying customers. And fair warning up front — the delectable Tyra Banks appears as a Coyote bartender very briefly before going off to finish law school(!).
“Flashdance” gave us, unforgettably, the steel welder who wanted to be a ballerina and made extra money doing elaborate postmodern erotic dances in a working class bar in Pittsburgh. “Coyote Ugly” gives us a pizza waitress from New Jersey who wants to make it as a songwriter in the big city. She is too shy to sing her songs in public, so of course she gets a job that requires her to be an exhibitionist, in the working class bar of the title, famous for its glorious bartenders and the way they display their glory. Think “Cocktail” starring the Spice Girls.
Coyote Ugly is owned by Lil (Mario Bello), who has a tough exterior but (surprise!) a heart of gold. She tells our heroine, Violet (Piper Perabo) that the bar is successful because men have two-year-olds in their pants, and she knows how to keep the two-year-olds happy. The girls are supposed to appear available but not be available and make the customers crazy but not too crazy. For this reason, the film-makers and some audience members have decided that the movie is not sexist — it is empowering.
Violet must, of course, conquer her stage fright and get a darling boyfriend with a dark secret (the adorable Adam Garcia, another in this summer’s series of handome Aussies). She has to try to make up with her adored father (John Goodman in yet another brilliant performance). He is disappointed in her and embarrassed about what she is doing. And Violet has to try to make it as a songwriter when no one wants to listen to the songs she composes on the roof of her picturesque but working-class apartment building. Despite all these challenges, somehow it all comes together in the end.
Parents should know that the movie has sexual references and situations, but pretty mild by PG-13 standards. There are a number of jokes about the girls’ sexual availability but no evidence that they engage in casual sex. Drinking, even drinking to excess, is handled lightheartedly, and drinking hard liquor is considered a sign of strength. Violet does something of a strip tease for her beau, ostensibly to make him nervous, which makes no sense, but then it didn’t make any sense when Jennifer Beals removed her bra without taking off her sweatshirt in “Flashdance,” either, and no one complained about that.
Families who see this movie should talk about the way that Violet adopts what she thinks was her late mother’s weakness, possibly as a way of keeping her close by being like her or from some notion of not betraying her by being able to do what she could not. They might want to talk about Violet’s somewhat one-sided relationship with Kevin. She shows very little interest in his life or willingness to support him, and she decides that he is unfaithful on very flimsy evidence. Families should also talk about the demeaning way that the girls in the bar see men’s view of women and the ways that women convey sexuality and availability and the problems that can occur if you don’t have huge bouncers on hand, as they do at the bar.
Families who enjoy this movie will also like “Flashdance” (though note that it has more mature material than this one does).