Jerry Bruckheimer is famous for producing dumb action movies. Armageddon, Con Air, Pearl Harbour, Gone in 60 Seconds, the list is almost endless. I'm not saying that they are all bad - they are normally fun popcorn action movies - but they are seldom anything more. Although these are nominally male-orientated, male-led affairs, he has occasionally focussed on the female of the species with films like Flashdance and Dangerous Things, but these are still not great movies - just more cheesy fluff except this time with female leads. Coyote Ugly is no different. It is just another cheesy Jerry Bruckheimer movie. But once you get over that fact, perhaps you can actually start enjoying this film on its own level.
The story follows Violet Sanford, a small town pizza parlour waitress who dreams of selling her songs and making it big. Much to the dismay of her loving but protective father she packs her bags for New York, hoping to make her fortune. Predictably she only finds rejection and disappointment, with no agent, a dismal apartment that gets broken into and no money, but when she overhears a bunch of girls discussing how many hundreds of dollars they made in one night, she is intrigued. Initially assuming that they must be prostitutes, she finds out that they work at a bar called Coyote Ugly and goes there to get a job. After a successful audition with the bar's hardened boss Lil, she is broken in and eventually welcomed by the other girls, joining them in their dancing, drinking dominance of the Coyote bar. Along the way she meets Kevin and after much persuasion, starts to warm to him and even fall in love with him. Neither him nor her father approve of her 'bar' work but perhaps their prejudice is founded on something deeper - perhaps they just don't want her to forget her dreams...
The story is ludicrously predictable, ladled with clichés and completely devoid of any originality but still it is strangely enjoyable - in a pure eye-candy feel-good kind of way. Obviously the movie is focussed on Violet, so they took a bit of a chance casting relative unknown Piper Perabo in the role, but it paid off. The young actress, shining with her pretty Polish roots, perfectly captures the essence of her small-town character and is thoroughly convincing as being innocent and naïve to the workings of the Big Apple. Perhaps this role has not given her the success that she was quite hoping for but I do hope we get to see more from Ms. Perabo. Although clearly a secondary character, the movie is held together by some scene stealing input from the great John Goodman. He excelled in the excellent Big Lebowski and has similarly enjoyed scene stealing cameos in movies like Arachnophobia and more recently in the Fifth Season of the excellent West Wing TV Series. Here his portrayal of Violet's father is probably the best thing about the movie - despite all the attractive ladies on offer. Running a close second on the acting scales is Maria Bello - whose striking looks only slightly exceed her solid acting skills. She is probably best known for her role in E.R. a few seasons ago, but has played strong, beautiful women in great movies like Mel Gibson's Payback and Alec Baldwin's comeback movie The Cooler. Here she is let down only slightly by the fact that her character is not developed a great deal, playing her hardened Bar manager and 'original' Coyote role as a lady so professional that she borders on being cold-hearted. We also get cameos from Melanie Lynskey, as Violet's best friend from back home, LeAnn Rimes as herself and a brief appearance by Johnny Knoxville as a cheering punter.
Obviously some of the biggest attractions of this movie are the activities of the Coyotes themselves, which mainly involve dancing on the bar - with or without the use of fire or water - but also include a rather unusual baseball game that comes as a nice surprise. The roles do not particularly call for stunning acting but do require looks and an ability to dance (although some scenes had stunt doubles) and, in that respect, the girls they picked were ideal for the job. Model Tyra Banks, relative unknown Izabella Miko and Bridget Moynahan (I Robot) play the Coyotes as pretty-much 2-D characters - the girl with attitude, the tease and the bitch - but they all look great strutting their stuff on the bar. You can't help but feel that they have been desperately underused, especially the lovely Moynahan who is clearly restricted by her limited role, but I guess none of them expected to earn Oscars for their performances.
This release promises to be a sexier, more adult cut of the film, unrated and extended by six minutes from the theatrical edition. Strangely, though, I think that perhaps the movie works better as a PG-13 piece of eye-candy. You see, the new cut has plenty of small changes - extensions to the dancing scenes (especially the water dance) and more adult dialogue - all of which work quite well even if they go largely unnoticed. However, the big difference is the extended sex scene which seems totally incongruous with the rest of the content. I would never normally criticise such an addition but here it just seems totally out of place. I know that it was intended to vamp-up the movie but seeing Piper Perabo's body double rolling around topless in a bed just seemed totally gratuitous and in contradiction with the rest of this otherwise fluffy but fun little Bruckheimer movie.
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