(Movie Review Written August 2000)
"Coyote Ugly" is a mess, although a mildly entertaining one. Kind of like the offspring of a beer commercial and an article from Maxim magazine come-to-life, the only problem is that I believe the editors of Maxim could have easily come up with a better screenplay on their own. Not that the script is the only problem with the film.
The film stars cute-as-a-button Piper Perabo as Violet, a girl from New Jersey who leaves her home to travel to New York to become a successful songwriter. The ending in any film like this is predictable and obvious - it's the journey to that point that makes the difference. After a string of bad luck, Violet finds herself in an audition to be another "Coyote"; one of a group of girls who are both waitresses/bartenders and dancers at a Manhattan bar. The only difference is that here, the girls taunt the men, dance on the bar and spray them with water. And they love it. Violet is fairly horrifed at her first viewing, but after a while she gets into her job and is dancing with the rest of the girls. More on this in a moment.
In her search to get her songs heard, Violet runs into a cook at one of the clubs (Adam Garcia) and after a couple of times of her acting disinterested, the two finally become a little more friendly. She has bad stage fright, and he tries to help her get over it. Er, wait. She dances on a bar in front of tons of guys, and she has stage fright? I know this is the kind of film where you just have fun and sort of not question anything, but this was a little bit much.
The bar scenes are easy to get caught up in, and the high-energy scenes are easily the best part of the film. The only problem is there's not enough of them. "Ugly"'s ad campaign made it look like the majority of the film takes place there, and while a lot of the opening half does, the second half moves away from it - and that's where it falls apart. The film suddenly begins to lean towards dramatic and although I have no problem with that, a film like this begins to crumble a bit when it tries to add drama. Beyond that, the transition between the fun and dramatic is sudden and not terribly well-handled.
Of course, this is a Jerry Bruckheimer film. While I actually like some of the producer's pictures("Rock", "Armageddon", etc), those films exist as pure, well-built "Summer" films. No more, no less. It's amazing that, even though this is not a Bruckheimer film where Michael Bay("Armageddon") directed, it still looks like one with its camera motion. And if you're bored, see if you can spot Bay during one of the film's bar sequences.
The performances are generally good. Perabo's performance isn't anything outstanding, but she has a sweetness and presence that carries her along. Maria Bello("Payback") is excellent as the bar owner who takes Violet on. As for the other Coyotes, they don't really get that much of a chance to do anything. John Goodman has a few good moments as Violet's father, as well. Somehow though, some way, "Coyote Ugly" strings together enough entertaining moments to make for a passable picture. It could have certainly been better in a lot of ways, but I never hated sitting through it, mainly because it doesn't seem to take itself seriously.
Note: The Blu-Ray edition combines both the theatrical and R-rated (7 minutes longer) "extended" cuts of the film, which were previously available separately on DVD. As for the theatrical cut, the footage here is certainly of more interest than usual "Unrated" titles, as it includes some noteworthy scenes, including an extended shopping montage early in the scene, additional dance footage in the bar featuring Tyra Banks, a softball game between the Coyotes and some old guys and slightly more of the water dance. Additionally, there is a fairly graphic (well, for "Coyote Ugly") sex scene between the Perabo and Garcia characters. In the movie, the two go into a comic book store at night, start flirting and the movie cuts away as they fall back. Here, the scene continues and does show Perabo nude. It's a warm, nicely filmed scene, but I can see why it's cut - it's pretty R-rated and, as a result, seems pretty sudden, given how the rest of the movie is until that point.
VIDEO: The film is presented by Touchstone in 2.35:1 widescreen (1080P/AVC) The presentation quality is noticably better than the DVD presentations, but it still does fall a little short of expectations in some areas.
Sharpness and detail are certainly an improvement over the DVD, but are mildly inconsistent, as while a few scenes looked soft, the majority of the picture looked quite crisp and well-defined, with a depth to the image that was occasionally pretty remarkable. As for minor details, things like the ads and posters by the bar entrance were readable for the first time (the bar scenes in general are crisper and clearer than ever.) Smaller details like hair (and pores in close-up) are now clearly visible.
There are some specks and marks - some more clearly visible than others - on the elements used. While there is minor wear, the film is - overall - in pretty good shape for being about eight years old at this point (which seems rather shocking, as it certainly doesn't seem like it's been eight years since this flick hit theatres.) The film does appear a tad grainy in some of the dimly-lit scenes, but it's always looked this way.
Colors looked bright and bold once again, looking a touch more vibrant and crisp than they have on the previous DVD releases. Flesh tones could look a little off at times, but nothing serious. Overall, while not an outstanding Blu-Ray presentation, this was still a very good one that is the best the film has looked outside the theatre.
SOUND: Although this isn't a Jerry Bruckheimer movie full of explosions, that doesn't mean that it isn't a soundtrack built for maximum impact. The Blu-Ray edition offers both an uncompressed PCM 5.1 presentation and a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack in English, Spanish & French.
There are two kinds of scenes in the movie - inside the bar and outside the bar. Outside of the bar, the music sounds rich and clear, but there really isn't that much going on beyond the occasional ambient sound and the dialogue. Inside the bar though, is a different story. The music just hits from all sides, sounding dynamic with some suprisingly deep, strong bass. The sounds of the chaotic crowds are also heard from all around.
The music is the one great element of the soundtrack, sounding great in general, but especially fantastic during the bar scenes. One may argue that the choice of songs throughout the movie is rather predictable, such as "Unbelievable" by EMF, but I think it's rare that music - good or bad - sounds this good. Dialogue generally sounded clear and easily heard, with no edginess.
EXTRAS: The extra features are carried over from the DVD editions. They are not in HD.
Search For The Stars: This is broken down into 3 different featurettes; Coyotes(4 min 40 sec) shows us how the Coyote girls were cast and what the crew was looking for. The girls talk about the audition process and the personalities of each characters. Violet(3 min 30 sec) shows the viewer the search process that went into casting the role of Violet. Interviews with Perabo & the cast/crew are included, as well as a clip from Perabo's screen test.Mr. O'Donnell(2 min 30 sec) takes a look at how the crew were able to find Adam Garcia for his role.
Inside The Songs: This is a featurette that takes a look at the songs in "Coyote Ugly", from writing the new songs that were included in the movie to working with Leann Rimes. Rimes is interviewed as well, and it's interesting to hear what she had to do to match her voice to the character's. The featurette lasts 3 minutes & 30 seconds.
Music Video: The music video for "Can't Fight The Moonlight" from Leann Rimes.
Theatrical Trailer: The film's theatrical trailer, which sounds excellent in Dolby Digital 5.1
Additional Scenes: There are 5 deleted scenes that are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Like the featurette sections, I liked that there's the ability in the menu for the viewer to select "play all" rather than having to go back to the menu to select another scene. This is an instance where the scenes - with the exception of one with Bello explaining why the opened the bar - were rightly taken out.
Coyote 101: 3 separate featurettes are included in this section - A Place To Get Ugly talks about coming up with how the bar looked and making the bar scenes work.Calling The Shots details the attempts by the producers to make what the girls do in the way that they pour shots and spin bottles to be authentic - along with some footage of them rehearsing.Shakin' It focuses on the girls learning to dance on the small bar space. All of the featurettes here are a couple minutes in length.
Action Overload: This has been an extra on other Disney discs and it always strikes me as a little weird; it's a 1 minute featurette that shows the most intense moments of "Coyote Ugly" with "behind-the-scenes" footage in-between. I guess you could call it a mini-trailer.
Something many will be thrilled to see included, we have "Coyote Commentary", a full commentary track from Piper Perabo, Maria Bello, Tyra Banks, Izabella Miko and Bridget Moynahan. It's a track that's a lot of fun, mainly involving stories that the group has to share about working on the movie. It's not a terribly informative track, although the girls do share some information about how things were done and their rehearsal work, but it's mainly just about having some fun and sharing their memories of being Coyotes. This is a full-length track and the girls have been recorded together; there's only a couple of small pauses, but overall it's a lot of fun and there's chat all the way through. There are comments from director David McNally and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, as well - who also chat more in a separate track.
Final Thoughts: "Coyote Ugly" remains a cheesy (yet quite entertaining) guilty pleasure eight years after its release. While this Blu-Ray edition's presentation doesn't dazzle quite as much as I'd hoped, the film still does certainly look and sound quite good overall here. Extras have been carried over from previous releases, and we get both versions of the film together, as well. Recommended.