Should I Watch..? 'Coyote Ugly'
What's the big deal?
Coyote Ugly is a musical romantic drama film released in 2000 and is largely set in a New Jersey bar of the same name. Directed by David McNally (his debut feature film), the film revolves around wannabe singer-songwriter Violet who pursues her dreams of stardom whilst working at the aforementioned bar and falling for music industry scout Kevin. It was initially based on an article in GQ about the real-life Coyote Ugly Saloon in New York City. The film stars Piper Perabo, Adam Garcia, Maria Bello, Tyra Banks and John Goodman. Despite a mostly negative reception, the film earned just shy of $114 million worldwide while the film's soundtrack, featuring Leann Rimes, also proved wildly popular.
What's it about?
Violet Sanford decides to leave her home in South Amboy, New Jersey in order to pursue her dreams of making it in New York as a songwriter. Despite her father's reluctance to see her go, she moves into a rundown apartment and unsuccessfully attempts to plug her demo tape. With her funds rapidly running low, she notices three women spending their hard-earned tips and soon discovers that they all work at a trendy bar nearby, Coyote Ugly.
After she auditions at the bar for a job, Violet soon finds that life at Coyote Ugly is noisy, out-of-control and intimidating. The women frequently pour shots straight down the necks of patrons, shower them with liquor before dancing on top of the bar itself and whipping the customers into a frenzy. Can Violet learn to come out of her shell enough to overcome her stage fright and can she trust the record scout Kevin to help her achieve her goals?
William "Bill" Sanford
Release Date (UK)
20th October, 2000
Drama, Music, Romance
What's to like?
I'll readily admit to not being part of this film's target audience so thinking of things I liked is hard. But I have to credit Coyote Ugly for some things - first of which has to be the performance of Perabo. While the script might be cornier than a veggie burger, her characterisation is believable and she gives the role her everything. She has an innocence in her face that suits the character perfectly, even if her comic timing might need a little work. Perhaps she could have learnt a thing or two from Goodman whose genuine performance as her overprotective father is sadly not seen on screen often enough for my tastes. The soundtrack is also first-class with some classic tracks from Leann Rimes, INXS, The Charlie Daniels Band, Blondie, Def Leppard, Sugar Ray and many more besides.
The other thing to note is that it's seems unusual to have a film with such a female-heavy cast leading proceedings. Yes, it might well be in a chick-flick but Coyote Ugly proves that such ventures aren't the risky undertakings they might have once been. Hollywood's reluctance to have female leads is legendary and while this might not be as funny as something like Bridesmaids, it's still good to see some people prepared to take a risk.
- The film's soundtrack remained on the Billboard Top 40 chart for over a year. It has since sold over 3 million copies.
- Jessica Simpson was in the running for the lead for some time but dropped out when film-makers refused to drop the sex scene. In the end, most of that scene ended up being cut anyway.
- As well as singer Leann Rimes making a cameo playing herself, there are also a couple of other famous faces on screen as well. Director Michael Bay appears as a photographer while future Jackass star Johnny Knoxville pops up as one of the bar's many patrons.
What's not to like?
From my point of view, so very much. The film is populated almost entirely by young, good-looking people and frankly, they don't provide much support for Perabo. Garcia is the worst, coming across as a vacuous pretty-boy with not much going on between both ears. The plot is as old as the hills and at no point do you ever really engage with the film unless you've been goaded into poking fun at it. For example, take the scene where Kevin is auctioned off against his will. Before that point, the bar had been filled with drunken frat boys. But once the auction begins, the place is filled with horny women all eager for a piece of Garcia - where did they come from all of a sudden?
The film substitutes personality for volume, turning the soundtrack up to eleven in the hope that you'll notice that not much is actually going on. Violet and Kevin's romance feels as contrived as the rest of the picture and there simply isn't anything else driving the film - no subplots, no bitchy in-fighting that I imagine would actually be rampant in a place such as that. There is nothing about Coyote Ugly that surprises you with the possible exception of whooshing sound effects whenever anyone juggles the bottles behind the bar like alcoholic ninjas. Tom Cruise never needed such trickery in Cocktail but that is, in no way, a recommendation.
Should I watch it?
As wish fulfilment goes, Coyote Ugly does an OK job of providing you access to a loud party that you weren't invited to - and possibly might not even want to go to. But the movie never kicks into second gear and offers little in the way of story, surprise or entertainment. It basically offers up a bunch of girls having a family-friendly wet t-shirt competition and if that's all you want then that's all you're gonna get. Just don't sit next to me on the bus, OK?
Great For: Leann Rimes' career, sales of the soundtrack, teenage girls, teenage boys with a pause button
Not So Great For: grown men, anyone who has actually worked in a bar, anyone who can't stand Leann Rimes
What else should I watch?
As obvious as it appears, the natural competition to Coyote Ugly is the Tom Cruise outing Cocktail where he plays another young hotshot finding his feet serving New York's loudest drunks. It might well be better suited to male viewers but Cocktail is less likeable with a dreadful screenplay, little chemistry between Cruise and his various conquests and even the soundtrack isn't as good. But in truth, neither film bears much relation to real-life - having worked behind a number of bars for a good few years, I can confirm that there is nothing worse when you're drunk than pouring drinks for other people.
There are several films that have a much better understanding of the struggles of being a musician, though few can touch the rowdy atmosphere of Coyote Ugly. The Eminem-inspired 8 Mile is a blistering look at the struggles of a white rap artist trying to make it in a predominantly black art-form. Frank is a recent indie drama loosely based on the comic creation Frank Sidebottom, a struggling musician whose identity is concealed under an enormous papier-mâché head. And if you're still looking for something with a loud soundtrack, you could do worse than CBGB, a dramatized look at the legendary punk venue in the late Seventies. The film's not that great but the soundtrack is to die for.
© 2016 Benjamin Cox