Coyote Ugly: The Unrated Extended Cut Review
Coyote Ugly is a sweet, simple film about a talented songwriter who leaves New Jersey to look for success in the Big Apple... and in finding a part-time job at a local bar, also finds confidence, friendship and romance. It's not as saccharin as it sounds, though it is firmly from the Flashdance school of girl-makes-good films. It even shares an obvious connection with Flashdance: Jerry Bruckheimer produced the 1983 film and executive produced this more recent effort.
Coyote Ugly is set in New York and follows Violet Sanford (Piper Perabo) as she leaves her father (John Goodman) in Jersey to find her feet in the big city. She's hoping to make it as a songwriter because - while talented - she's too nervous to actually perform herself. While trying to get herself noticed by the record companies and executives she meets Australian Kevin O'Donnell (Adam Garcia) and a burgeoning romance begins. She also finds herself a job at a bar called 'Coyote Ugly' (referring to the feeling of waking up finding you're in bed next to someone that is so ugly you want to gnaw off any of your body parts they're sleeping on so you can sneak away).
Now, the bar in the film is based on a real-life bar where the staff (known as Coyotes) dance on the bar, have fun with the bartending and generally enjoy a pretty raucous relationship with the clientele, making a night in there feel like a full-on party. The version in the film well lives up to this reputation, and Violet has to overcome some of her own personal demons relating to performance and assertiveness to become a valued member of the team. These skills are coincidentally also what helps her dream career start to take shape too. Of course, the men in Violet's life - her father and Kevin - aren't always 100% behind her saucy career and these conflicts add to the dramatic flow of the film.
Despite an entirely predictable plot, Coyote Ugly remains entertaining and likeable. The story flows well and the timing between dramatic scenes and raucous, fun dance sequences in the bar works well also. The cast is comprised of a lot of quite new faces and the film uses this to good effect to maintain a feeling of freshness. And they all do genuinely well in their roles. Piper Perabo is just innocent enough without seeming incapable or simpering, the rest of the Coyotes (including models Tyra Banks and Bridget Moynahan) definitely add heaps of charisma to the production and did really well in the dance and bartending sequences.
Aside from the movie good-looks and figures, they did come across as three-dimensional characters even where they had little dialogue. Maria Bello (Payback, Assault on Precinct 13) is particularly strong as the bar's owner, Lil. And let's not forget the men! John Goodman plays his role with vigour – he doesn't get all that much screentime and it's not a role that particularly stretches his acting, but that doesn't matter – when he is on screen, I always found myself drawn to watching him. (Especially in his big dance number!) Adam Garcia (Wilde, Bootmen) does a decent job as Kevin; I found the chemistry between him and Perabo believable enough. It's certainly a long way from his days on the London stage in Saturday Night Fever... which was the last time I saw him in action.
Another important aspect which the crew of Coyote Ugly really got right was the soundtrack. Violet's songs are pretty good, and do get better in the build-up to 'Can't Fight the Moonlight' which is performed in the film by LeAnn Rimes and which became a smash hit for her when released as a single. There's also plenty of decent music for the bar scenes, including 'Unbelievable' by EMF, 'Need You Tonight' by INXS and 'The Devil Went Down To Georgia' by the Charlie Daniels Band.
And finally, a quick comment about the 'extended cut'. OK, so it's been a while since I saw the original cut of Coyote Ugly... but even so I found it quite hard to work out what had been added (apparently 7 minutes of 'previously unseen footage' made its way into this version). Obvious guesses include an extended sex scene (or lovemaking sequence!), and possibly racy discussions becoming a bit more racy in this cut, but there didn't seem to be anything that changed the focus of the film or added enough for me to actually sit up and notice a difference.
Jerry Bruckheimer may be best known for his association with films such as Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor and Con Air, but he and director David McNally (Kangeroo Jack) have created a solid, entertaining film in Coyote Ugly. It's not deep and meaningful, it's not full of twists, but it is a simple tale told well – and I found the result enjoyable to watch.
The picture is presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 ratio and is of good quality, as you'd expect. There's a lot of dark scenes, as much of the film's action is based in a bar and at night, but skin tones and the colours in clothing stand out well even against this darker background. I didn't notice any particular problems whilst the video is playing, although a quite faint grain is almost always visible if you freeze the picture (as the screencaps I've included here will bear out).
The film has a choice of 3 languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese, all treated to Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. Subtitles are available in English, English for the Hard of Hearing (HOH), Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic and Portuguese – so there are many options here. The quality of the soundtrack is pretty spot on, there's a lot of background and foreground music and directionality works well with good reproduction and a good use of the surround sound. A lively soundtrack always helps a film and in this case it was fairly essential, what with Violet being a songwriter, and the majority of action taking place in a bar with lots of dancing. Luckily, the music doesn’t detract from the dialogue at all.
The disc starts with a traditional bout of pre-menu trailers, though you can skip through them to the main menu, so it's not too bad at all. The first set are all for the Platinum Collection (Veronica Guerin, Crimson Tide, Dangerous Minds, Bad Company, Gone in 60 Seconds, Coyote Ugly, Con Air, Remember the Titans, The Rock and Pirates of the Caribbean) and instead of full trailers for each films, there are some short clips and then pictures of the DVD cases. This segment is followed by the trailers for King Arthur, Pirates of the Caribbean and National Treasure. And finally we reach the main menu, a simple but effective affair, full-animated and accompanied by a long-looped music track.
The biggest of the special features is the audio commentary with the girls of the film: Tyra Banks, Maria Bello, Izabella Miko, Bridget Moynahan and Piper Perabo. In between the chatting in this 'coyote commentary' there's the odd snippet from director David McNally and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, which were obviously recorded at a separate session and interspersed with the girls' more natural chat. That being said, the snippets aren't all that interesting! The girls giggle, chat and gossip their way through the film, but manage to get in quite a few interesting anecdotes about their real lives, filming, how and where scenes were shot and the normal kind of commentary stuff. With so many voices and a group that obviously gets on well, it makes for quite an entertaining commentary. OK, so it's not too technical and certainly not deep, but I enjoyed it more than many I've had to listen to over the years and it's definitely worth its inclusion here.
There's a fair number of featurettes as part of the extras. The first is called Search for the Stars and fairly obviously covers the casting process, with Jerry Bruckheimer, David McNally and the cast members themselves talking about auditions and casting, interspersed with clips of the film being shot. There's 3 categories under this featurettes: 'The Dreamer', 'Coyotes', 'Mr O'Donnell'... though you can play them all together. So first we hear about Piper Perabo, then the rest of the Coyotes and then Kevin's casting. There's no real revelations, but it's mildly interesting and well put-together.
The next featurette is called Inside the Songs and features Jerry Bruckheimer, Piper Perabo, LeAnn Rimes, and songwriter for the film, Diane Warren. They comment on how they needed Violet to show not only real talent, but a progression of talent fed from her life experiences in New York. Diane Warren's songs attempt to show that progression, something I feel they did pretty well. They also reveal that Piper Perabo initially sang all the songs, but because LeAnn Rimes enjoyed the film so much she eventually sang all the songs and became Violet's singing voice.
Coyote 101 is another featurette broken into 3 sections with a play all feature. The segments are: 'A Place to get Ugly', 'Calling the Shots', and 'Shakin' It'. In order they deal with the bar and its meaning, bartending and teaching the cast the various skills, and dance. There's plenty of behind-the-scenes action dotted throughout while the cast, crew, choreographer and bartending trainers get to speak about how to really get the atmosphere and skills needed to make the Coyote Ugly bar in the film as authentic as possible.
There are also five additional scenes, with a play all option. I found the clip with Violet's ex-boyfriend to be the most interesting of the bunch, but the extra scenes with Gloria were quite amusing – and they were discussed a little in the commentary, so it was good to have them included.
The final features are all promotional in nature. Action Overload is an action sequence of all the crazy dance/bar sequences from the film and seems to serve very little purpose. Then there's the LeAnn Rimes music video which is quite touching and suits the song and film well, and the theatrical trailer, which is fairly bland but ok.
Coyote Ugly is one of those films that performs well and entertains as advertised but is never going to win any awards. This DVD package of the 'director's cut' is a good, solid one with interesting extras, though there don't appear to be any new features to this DVD package aside from the new cut of the film, some extra subtitles and the addition of a couple of language soundtracks.