John Goodman is a large man, which is good, because the rest of this skinny and skin-baring cast could easily blow away with the next big gust of wind. In addition to that small, er, large fact, Goodman is about the only thing that grounds Coyote Ugly to make it a halfway decent film. I’ll admit, the plot was not the best, but the writing was respectable enough, with some good lines in there to bond characters and push the story along, and Goodman fills his role beautifully. It’s everyone else that looks like they’re acting.
The premise of the movie is that Violet, later nicknamed “Jersey”, leaves her father (Goodman) in New Jersey to pursue her dream to be a songwriter in New York City. The first question I was asking was why would a character as terribly shy and full of stage fright as this want to move to NYC? Does she not realize she could have stupidly mailed all her demo tapes from New Jersey instead of waiting until she was penniless and in New York to make the same unsolicited mail mistake?
Now, building up to actually seeing the bar, named Coyote Ugly, the story is fairly dull, but the key point to make is that it at least has some forward momentum, which is better than a lot of movies today where you are entirely uninterested from the start. People in New York and the music business are rude to Violet, she has to play her keyboard on the roof to escape her wall pounding neighbors, and her apartment is robbed. The first third of the movie could have easily been entitled “Filthy NYC Shits on Violet.”
Then, after she is already hired at Coyote Ugly, you see the inside of the bar for the first time. Now, this is the perfect type of bar for a shy girl like Violet to work in, therefore, again, there is forward momentum; will she make it or will she fail? The problem I see is that the bar is a little too unbelievable. I’ve been to quite a few bars in my life and seen a bunch of stuff, but this took the cake. I know, as a woman, you can’t walk past some strange men without your butt getting a little pinch (which is battery, by the way), and yet, here I’m supposed to expect all the drunken men to act oh, so appropriately. They merely cheer the women on while they dance around on the bar groping themselves and rubbing against the furniture like they need rash cream. I think the only thing that saves this bar from being overboard is that, written into the script, there is a female owner, Lil. Knowing that, and seeing the female power Lil has over her life and her bar, it looks like it would be a fun place for everyone, except for Violet of course, who, somehow is blamed for every bar fight. It’s kind of like Cocktail and Road House poured into one glass and a leopard skin thong thrown in to the mix. Personally, I wouldn’t drink it. But it’s an opportunity for Violet to get in touch with her slutty, tease, stripper side.
There are lots of body shots for the guys, making it come off as a gritty, adult film with a touch of drunken, sexy roughness. But, there’s also a sappy story line (probably not as bad as Crossroads, but you get my drift) for the girls to fulfill the ever present yearning for fairytale-ish endings and the ease of a simple, uncomplicated film. I really don’t know why that’s always the formula for chic-flicks, but apparently it is. My issues with the film, apart from a weak plot, are that Violet seems very money motivated and doesn’t mind having sex in comic book shops even if she is brought there in the middle of the night with a blindfold over her eyes by an Australian cutie she’s only known for four days. Not to mention, she’s an attention seeking non-singer that keeps getting asked to get on stage. Aside from that, apparently you can break up bar brawls with a microphone, just sing along with a jukebox.
Don’t get me wrong, it is entertaining to a point, but then the rest of the film leans on John Goodman to be the strongest character when he’s not the main character. Piper’s acting was good, I just don’t think she was given strong enough lines to make her real to the story. The biggest mistake is that the title of the movie is also the name of the bar, but the story is not about the bar, it’s about the girl. While there is something to be said for the guts it took to step out and make a film where nothing blows up and still have it stand close to the edge, what seems to be the problem today is that filmmakers forget about story. If story isn’t there and writing isn’t there, it’s not going to be the best film on the shelf. I think the book publishing industry should be proof enough to Hollywood that story matters more than explosions and sex. Explosions and sex happen within the story, but they aren’t the story. McNally could have shown more of Violet’s thoughts and meaningful discussions and less of her midriff and boobs and the audience still would have rooted for her.
While it was fun to catch a glimpse of the notables in the crowd scenes (Johnny Knoxville, Alex Borstein, that “oh, face” guy from Office Space, for example) I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Coyote Ugly to anyone, but I wouldn’t use the inserts as toilet paper either. It was okay. It’s one of those movies that’s out there and floats around in space. You’ve seen it and life goes on. No big deal, but not quite garbage. Maybe it just needs salt and a lemon to help it go down okay.
As far as the special features go, they also fall somewhere in the middle. I will say there are a lot of features, but not too many, and a few of them have three to five different sections to them. The good part is that Touchstone was smart enough to allow you to watch them separately or choose to “Play All” of them in a row. To start off, there are additional scenes, which I always like. What was nice here was that these weren’t blatantly meaningless clips. A lot of them would have added more into the story, but not necessarily added to the one main story. There’s some more character development, but these are mostly further development of the secondary characters: Lil, Violet’s best friend in Jersey, and Violet’s ex-boyfriend who is nonexistent in the final version of the movie.
Then in the “Inside the Songs” section you find out that Piper Perabo doesn’t sing any of the songs, LeAnn Rimes does, she explains how in an interview. Which also explains why Rimes cheaply shows up in the movie and sings on the bar. This is followed by Rimes’ music video to “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” so you can see clips of the movie you’ve already seen. And, if you haven’t seen enough montage clips of the movie, which you, of course, have already seen, you can watch the “’Action Overload’ reel featuring the hottest moments from the movie-music video style.” This sixty second feature is about one minute too long and really unnecessary.
Next you have “Coyote 101: How to be a Coyote”. While it doesn’t tell you how to be a Coyote, this one is not bad. It explains more about the bar being a character of the movie, talks about the drink tricks the girls had to learn to make all the bottle tossing and such look natural, and then discusses the different dance aspects and methods for each character. I liked this extra because it went a little deeper into the characters (not that any of them have any backgrounds) as well as the actors.
There’s also a segment “Search for the Stars” which shows the characters as individuals and looks at the actors and why they were chosen to play the parts they were cast in. This is another decent one that gives a little insight into the film, but just a little. There isn’t much in there that you couldn’t figure out just by watching the film and learning the style and attitude of each character, but how well they match up to the people playing them does help.
Finally, there’s a great commentary with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director David McNally, and all five of the Coyotes. This bit is entertaining enough to sit through the movie again because they basically talk nonstop. A pet peeve of mine is when you’re on the commentary and there’s all this blank space where you’re just watching the movie, as though the director/producer/actor has absolutely nothing to add. That’s not the case for this one. However, I didn’t like that the sound for the film was so low during the commentary that you almost couldn’t here it at all. They kept making reference to “that line” or “that song” and I couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but, because there is constant discussion, it’s all right.
Also for the commentary they didn’t always talk about the film, many of the women lived a similar life starting out in NYC so it was a fairly autobiographical tale for most of them. In that respect you really did feel like the commentary was giving you something a little extra. This is always a nice touch and the point to having a DVD in the first place. I’ll give them credit for not holding back, but I wish there had been a little more pulp in the juice. I guess you can’t ask for much more because if they did give you more, you would want it to actually be in the movie and not sitting around on the disc. A bad movie with awesome extras is still a bad movie, in this case an average movie with average extras.