Some say you can't fight the moonlight, Judge Paul Pritchard says they just aren't trying hard enough.
"Oh Violet, I'm not a lesbian. I played in the minors but never went pro."
In 1993, New York City saw the opening of the first Coyote Ugly Saloon. Run by Liliana Lovell, the bar soon began to establish itself when Lovell's policy of hiring young women, who would be trained to perform wild routines, proved to be a winning formula.
In 1997, former bartender Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a piece for GQ magazine that told of her time as a "Coyote." Three years later and super producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl) had a $100 million hit on his hands.
Facts of the Case
Naïve, wannabe songwriter Violet Sanford (Piper Perabo, The Prestige) leaves the home she shares with her father (John Goodman, (Monsters Inc.), to move to New York City and take her shot at the big time.
With big city life being far from cheap, and with her path to stardom being anything but easy, Violet takes a job at "Coyote Ugly," after impressing bar owner Lil (Maria Bello, A History Of Violence) with her headstrong demeanour.
But while Violet soon blossoms behind the bar, her song-writing career stalls when a crippling fear of performing her own songs in public threatens to kill her dream. Enter love interest Kevin O'Donnell (Adam Garcia, Riding In Cars With Boys), who sets out to win her heart and help overcome her fear.
A quick browse of the Internet reveals there isn't much love out there for Coyote Ugly, especially from the critics; and its easy to see why. A cliché ridden plot, numerous characters that could have easily been pulled from any number of "chick flicks" and, despite a marketing campaign that hinted at a raunchy movie going experience, it all pans out to be a disappointingly tame affair. Clearly what we have here is a movie for teenage girls only, case closed, move along folks nothing to see here.
And yet, even taking into account it's numerous faults and against my better judgement, I find Coyote Ugly to be a perfectly acceptable way to spend 101 minutes (107 if you're watching the extended cut…more on that later). Some of the criticisms aimed at the movie seem a little unfair, seeming to suggest the movie is a chore to watch; on the contrary, this is an undeniably watchable movie, its cheesy and predictable nature somehow playing to its favour. Perhaps the obvious fun had by all involved becomes infectious; maybe it's the occasional spark of wit ("Cammie, you can only be a tease if you stop sleepin' around, babe."), or maybe, just maybe it's that in many ways this is a "chick flick" aimed at the male audience perhaps more so than it is the ladies. There's a strange charm to a movie that has all the hallmarks of a soppy love story, yet is more than willing to throw in masses of gyrating female flesh and a sub-plot that revolves around "Amazing Spider-Man" issue 129 (featuring the first appearance of The Punisher).
Helping Coyote Ugly to no end are the performances of its only two male characters (at least the only two who have more than 5 lines in the whole movie) Adam Garcia as Kevin O'Donnell, Violet's on/off boyfriend and John Goodman as Violet's father, Bill. Garcia skilfully walking the tightrope of being all doey-eyed to melt the girls' hearts, but still being appealing to the male viewers with his smart-ass one-liners, love of comic books and willingness to lay the smackdown on anyone who manhandles his girl. Goodman, though hardly stretching himself, serves up a performance full of warmth as the doting father whose heart is broken upon discovering the "seedy" job his beloved daughter has taken on.
Of course the real stars of the movie are the "Coyotes," and what an intimidating lot they are. While Piper Perabo's Violet maintains her good girl image throughout, despite a few glimpses of the wild child within, the 4 other "Coyotes" are an uninhibited lot. Tyra Banks, Bridget Moynahan and Izabella Miko as Zoe, Rachel and Cammie respectively, are given little to do other than play stereotypes (one's got the brains, one has the brawn and the other is the "tart with the heart") while Maria Bello's Lil is the feisty bar owner, a match for any man who'll protect her girls at all costs.
The "Extended Cut" adds 6 minutes of additional content that takes the film from a PG-13 family movie to an R rated, "put the kids to bed, daddy wants to watch this alone," beauty. Ok, slight exaggeration, but from Izabella Miko (Save The Last Dance 2) stripping down to her underwear during a game of baseball (never has anyone clasped their hands around a bat so impressively), to Piper Perabo's body double getting naked; the film plays a little more like the trailers would have you believe.
The 2.35:1 1080p transfer offers a significant upgrade over the previous DVD release; offering a natural looking image, with excellent black levels and a consistently sharp and detailed image throughout. Though lacking the "pop" of more recent movies put out in Hi-Def like Transformers, the Blu-Ray version of Coyote Ugly is certainly a movie that benefits from the jump to the next-generation disc format. The discs audio is slightly less successful. Don't get me wrong, there are no faults as such, it's just the bar scenes, with the music blasting away while a rowdy crowd roar their approval, seem slightly lacking, mostly it would seem due to a lack of use of the rear speakers.
Extras are a straight port of the "Extended Cut" that was released on DVD some time back. All disappointingly in standard definition, the extras are pretty weak. The commentaries feature a whole lot of talking without really saying anything and the flimsy featurettes are too short and lacklustre to be worth bothering with.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
During its development, Coyote Ugly allegedly had several uncredited writers, including Kevin Smith (Chasing Amy). And while I can't deny my enjoyment of the film, I must confess the whole thing frequently feels rather calculated. Due to so many having their own individual input into the film, writer Gina Wendkos and director David McNally, like the Architect in The Matrix Reloaded, spend most of the movie trying to perfectly balance the equation; trying to be romantic enough for the female viewers but still titillating enough for the men-folk. In a similar way, for every scene of female empowerment (hard as nails bargirl Rachel smashing a fist into a hecklers face), the filmmakers feel obliged to throw in another 5 minutes of the "Coyotes" getting soaked while dancing on the bar…not that I'm saying that's necessarily a bad thing.
What can I say, I like Coyote Ugly, sue me!*
Is Coyote Ugly a misunderstood classic? Are you likely to have an epiphany while watching it? Is it better than Cocktail (the only other bar based movie I could think of)? The answers to those questions are No, No and Yes. Greater than the sum of its parts, Coyote Ugly has a certain feel good charm that makes for an enjoyable Friday night movie.
*(On second thought, don't sue me; I don't think I could handle the landslide of lawsuits this review could bring.)
A guilty pleasure perhaps, but I'm issuing a Not Guilty verdict.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
• Unrated Extended Cut
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