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Film review: Coyote Ugly

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Is "Coyote Ugly" supposed to be this funny?

There are times when this ludicrously entertaining musical-comedy-drama appears to be poking fun at itself and nearly becomes full-on camp. But then the whole thing begins to take itself seriously again, which is deadly when you're dealing with such a silly subject matter to begin with.

And then there's the decision to cast the dubiously talented Piper Perabo in the central role. Remember, this is the same newcomer who helped make "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" even more insufferable.

Not that she can be held solely accountable for this unintentionally hilarious mess. Not when there's an almost-as-awful script and laughable, "original" songs, featuring titles like "Please Remember," "The Right Kind of Wrong" and "Can't Fight the Moonlight." If you're not howling by the time this one is done, you must have already left the theater.

The title here refers to an actual bar in New York City, which is considerably glamorized for the film. And it's where aspiring songwriter Violet Sanford (Perabo) gets her first break in the big city.

Violet's got big dreams — she even tries to submit her songs to "Whitney and Mariah." So far she's been shot down but not knocked out, even after a disastrous first night on the job.

In fact, bar owner Lil (Maria Bello) is convinced the spunky New Jerseyite has something, which appears to be borne out when "Jersey" (as she's been nicknamed) quells a bar fight by belting out a karaoke-style version of a song on the jukebox.

And while that little stunt brings her one step closer to stardom, two people aren't particularly thrilled — her jealous boyfriend Kevin (Aussie newcomer Adam Garcia) and her father (John Goodman), who is appalled at the sight of his little girl high-stepping in skimpy outfits at the bar.

Will Violet finally write her one big hit? Will she and Kevin get back together? Will her father ever forgive her? Needless to say, there's little suspense involved in any of these all-too-predictable plot points.

This is probably not the auspicious beginning that director David McNally was probably hoping for for his career, though his splashy visuals and judicious editing make sure this eye candy isn't completely intolerable.

However, the performers nearly sabotage the effort, especially Perabo, whose whine and idiotic grin aren't exactly endearing.

Of the bunch, only Garcia, who has a certain rakish charm, and Goodman, who seems to be the only person to realize how dopey this is, emerge unscathed.

(In fact, the filmmakers reportedly reshot scenes to get more of Goodman into the movie. They might have been better off centering the entire film around his more-interesting character.)

"Coyote Ugly" is rated PG-13 for occasional profanity, violence (bar violence and fistfights), vulgarity (some crude humor and sexually suggestive dancing) and brief female partial nudity (some of the Coyotes' revealing costumes). Running time: 94 minutes.

E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com