[6 July 2005]
Violet Sanford (Piper Perabo) is arguably the single most naive aspiring singer-songwriter to have graced the silver screen since motion pictures were invented. This is no mere hyperbole. A Jersey girl who’s lived her entire life less than an hour away from New York City, at the start of Coyote Ugly, she has a plan to make her dream a reality. This is the sort of plan that only occurs in poorly scripted films for purposes of getting a character from Point A to Point B: that much is obvious. Still, she displays unbelievable ignorance for someone who’s purportedly spent years wanting to be a songwriter. Can anyone think that a best plan of attack is to walk into a record company and say, “Hi, I just recently moved to New York and was wondering if you’d give my tape to one of your artists.”
The receptionist at one of the companies (Ellen Cleghorne) scores one of the few legitimate laughs in the film with her reply:
Violet, that is so cute! Now lemme tell you about me. My name is Wendy, and I first moved to New York when I was 21 to be a dancer… but I broke my big toe, and then I got knocked up by this actor who dumped me to join the Peace Corps. So for the last 16 years, I’ve been raising my daughter all by myself. And then two weeks ago, she tells me that she is a bisexual and that she hates me more than any person on this planet.
With a mirthless chuckle, Wendy adds, “Now tell me how I can help you, please, because I am dying to make your dreams come true.”
But enough about the script. After all, no one has ever entered into a viewing of Coyote Ugly thinking it might be a truly touching story about a little girl moving to the big city to become a star. Well, no heterosexual male has, anyway. And, certainly, heterosexual males make up a significant percentage of the population titillated by the concept of the film’s second release on DVD in an Unrated, Extended Cut.
Coyote Ugly, for the uninitiated, is the name of the bar where Violet finds work upon moving to the Big Apple. Owner Lil (Maria Bello) and her bartenders (Tyra Banks, Izabella Miko, and Bridget Moynahan) are all sexy women who wear tight clothing and dance on the bar, occasionally taking occasional breaks to pour alcohol down the length of the bar and set it on fire. If the menfolk get out of hand, they literally cool them off by pouring ice on them.
Clearly, no matter how many times producer Jerry Bruckheimer or director David McNally claim Coyote Ugly is a film about a strong woman making her way in the world, it’s really just about four or five hot chicks performing incredibly well choreographed dance moves in front of a bunch of drunks. If there’s any question about the accuracy of this statement, please check one of the DVD’s new special features: “Action Overload,” a two-minute highlight reel of the best moments from the saloon. It’s actually useful, in that it might save you an hour and a half of viewing time.
The “unrated” portion of this edition appears to be the addition of a love scene between Violet and her love interest, Kevin (Adam Garcia), featuring not Perabo but rather, her body double, Laura Grady Peterson; the scene is cut in such a fashion that it’s obvious the naked breasts on display do not belong to Perabo, so credit should go where credit is due. Don’t get too excited, though; it might’ve upped the theatrical rating of the film from PG-13 to R, but that’s about it. Insofar as what’s been “extended,” the only obvious bit arrives during a sequence where the girls from Coyote Ugly play softball and Cammie (Miko) performs a striptease at home plate, using her bat in a decidedly phallic fashion; before, it was more of a montage, but, now, the whole scene is played out.
For the most part, however, the special features remain the same from the last edition to this new version. It includes two commentary tracks blended into one, however - one by Bruckheimer and McNally, the other by the Coyotes—but much of what Bruckheimer and McNally have to say is covered in the behind-the-scenes featurettes, and the Coyotes’ conversation about the film, while occasionally interesting, descends into girly-girl hell early on, with far more talk about the outfits they were wearing than the goings-on during the filming of a particular scene. It might have been nice to hear from John Goodman, who plays Violet’s father, but one has a sneaking suspicion that he took the role—little more than an extended cameo—for the paycheck. The same can be said for Melanie Lynskey (also absent from the commentary), who, despite being underused in the film, says more with a couple of gestures and expressions than anyone else does with dialogue.
Perabo definitely has charisma. And if you can get caught up in the plot without laughing at the ridiculousness, it’s not hard to find yourself rooting for her success. But this story of a small-town girl who makes good is built on an unsteady foundation of cliches, then buried beneath the dancing and drunken revelry of bar patrons, making Coyote Ugly a film best appreciated on mute.