Coyote Ugly


Directed by: David McNally
Written by:Gina Wendkos
Starring: Piper Perabo, Adam Garcia, Maria Bello, Tyra Banks, John Goodman
Released: January 1, 2001
Grade: C+

And so another film year begins.  Assessing the first movie of the year is always tough as it sets the benchmark.  Every film that follows is indirectly compared and it’s an unenviable position.  Like any contest, no one wants to go first but for 2001, Coyote Ugly has drawn the short straw.

Violet Sanford (Perabo) lives in New Jersey with her father Bill (Goodman) but has decided it’s time to move on.  She’s found a small pad in New York City where she can establish herself and try to make it as a songwriter.  Violet can sing beautifully but suffers from stage fright, as did her late mother, and her phobia limits her opportunities.

Desperate for a job, she sees three beautiful girls in a cafe laughing, giggling and flashing around $50 bills they had made the night previous.  She overhears they’re waitresses at a bar known as Coyote Ugly and a position will be available within a week.  Too good to be true?

Approaching the bar’s owner, Violet gets the job but it’s not what she expected.  The girls sing and dance on the bar, shower customers with water and ice and stay open until dawn.  She soon catches the drift though, fits right in and meets the dream guy.  You can’t have a movie however without adversities and yes, they’re just around the corner...

Very disappointing is an apt description for Coyote Ugly.  Every time I felt the film getting on track, it derailed yet again - it just couldn’t get passed second base.  John Goodman stands out like a beacon as the only cast member who can truly act.  He has less screen time than anyone but manages to produce the most laughs, if the audience at my screening were anything to go by.

Of the remaining cast, Piper Perabo indicates that she will be a leading actress of the future.  The first question that came to mind though was whether that was her singing all those songs in the movie? Sadly, the answer is no.  In fact, the songs are performed by LeAnn Rimes.  In hindsight, it explains why Rimes has a cameo in the final two minutes.  Perhaps they should have found an actress who can sing to play the leading role.  Think back to Jane Horrocks performance in Little Voice.

Australian Adam Garcia plays the boyfriend in what can only be described as a mind-numbingly awful performance.  So many of his lines are forced and appear as if they’ve been read straight of an auto cue.  Perhaps he felt the same dissatisfaction with the script as I did.

Coyote Ugly is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer - the same guy who made Bad Boys, The Rock, Con Air, Armageddon and Gone In 60 Seconds.  Whilst it’s a step away from his traditional “action” theme, not much has changed in terms of quality (that’s bad).  Let’s look at the film’s PG rating as an illustration.  Despite half the movie being set in a bar, there is no bad language whatsoever.  I’m not sure what world Jerry Bruckheimer is from but it ain’t this one.  His softening of the film from an M to a PG rating has done nothing but expand the number of possible audience members.  To jeopardise the whole movie for the sake of a few bucks - that takes a lot of class.