Coyote Ugly (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Here's a film with a classic Robbins Recipe. If you're a movie buff, you know what I mean. The Tim Robbins character in The Player was a studio exec with the knack to describe any movie pitch in a pithy reference to previous movies. A hopeful scriptwriter would pitch him an idea and he'd say something like, "So, it's kind of a Saving Private Ryan meets Manos?" The Robbins Recipe for Coyote Ugly is "Cocktail meets Flashdance, with just a dash of Little Voice."

I got too complex with that Robbins Recipe. James Berardinelli wrote more succinctly, "It's Showgirls without the nudity."

... and the depth!


A sweet little Middle-America tootsie with a perpetually bewildered expression goes to New York City to become a famous songwriter in the general style of Carole King. She has no agent, no contacts, and no idea how one becomes a songwriter. She finds out that the only hope for her is to sing her own songs at open mike nights, but she can't do that because she has a bad case of stage fright. She is desperate, doesn't know where to turn, is living without hope or income in a seedy cold water flat. She takes a job at one of those show bars where the bottle-spinning bartenders also dance on the tables. Her conservative father walks into the bar, sees her wearing a t-shirt while horny drunks pour water over her.

Here's your quiz. How does it end?

One of the following:

  • She uses her meager bartender earnings to buy dope. Her dad commits suicide when he leaves the bar. When she hears about her father, she O.D's, and the police find her in the gutter in the rain, her hands clutching the only demo tape of her songs. The police don't know who she is, and her toe tag reads, "Jane Doe". The camera pulls back to show the squalor of lower Manhattan. The credits roll.
  • She is forced to return to Upper Lower Amboy, New Jersey, where she works as a waitress, gets married, has a couple kids, takes a few junior college classes, sews her own clothes, and is really popular on Karaoke night in the local bowling alley lounge. Sometimes she writes and sings songs at the local elementary school on Earth Day, and she sings at all her family weddings
  • She becomes a popular bartender, overcomes her stage fright by singing along with the juke box in the show bar, gets a new hairstyle and wardrobe, cleans up as a flat-out fox, gets some gigs, finds the perfect hunky boyfriend, wins her dad's forgiveness, and is a massive hit in her stage debut (after her loved ones show her all their love during her shaky start).

Gee, which do you think it was?

The reviewer for wrote that the Coyote Ugly bar "is like a Disney World redneck bar, akin to those European locales at Epcot that have been re-created so one doesn't have to deal with actual foreigners", with their B.O., and their cigarettes, and their endless pinching of your wife or daughter.

There are many things that make a movie "bad", and Coyote Ugly isn't totally awful, no matter how much I may have despised it. It isn't unremittingly boring like I Dreamed of Africa or unforgivably ego-laden, like Battlefield Earth. It has some charm from John Goodman, a few good moments, and a hip and glossy look. It is (barely) watchable. But the script is one of the worst ever written. As Movie Juice declared, this film is "dumber than a doorknob." Take the pure stupidity of The Skulls, and mesh it with the maudlin cliché level of Autumn in New York, and you can estimate the general quality.


Miscellaneous points: 

  • Do you like the song "I Will Survive"? Here's your movie.
  • How good are the songs that the star sings and writes? Imagine Debby Boone singing "You Light Up My Life." Then subtract all of Debby's get-down soul, world-weary blues, and hard-drivin' funk
  • The shallow, insubstantial bartenders make fun of the shallow, insubstantial nature of Playmates. They have a game where they try to guess the Playmate's favorite movies. ("Saving Private Ryan" is a winner.) We all know that bar-dancing bartenders are so much deeper than Playmates. Here's a tip to the screenwriter. All of those Playmates are brainier, deeper, and more sincere than your characters.
  • The bar packs in people tighter than sardines, and they occasionally pour booze on the bar and set it on fire to accentuate their dance routines. Luckily, the fire marshal is around, and imposes a stern glance and a $250 fine for their hijinks!
  • The tough-talkin' but soft-hearted owner of the bar has long since forgotten what it was like when she was growing up in Piedmont, North Dakota. In fact, she's forgotten that Piedmont is in South Dakota.
  • The final line in the film is, "What do you do when you realize all your dreams have come true?"
  • The little tootsie's best friend in Jersey looks just like Monica Lewinsky, and the actress' real name is "Lynskey" - hmmmm .....
  • The title, if you don't know, comes from the tendency of coyotes to chew off their legs in order to free themselves from a trap. If a man wakes up with a "coyote ugly" woman sleeping on his arm, he will chew it off rather than wake her up.
  • I thought Dish Dogs would win the Year 2000 award for best fat guy cheesecake, with Brian Dennehy in a skin-tight wet suit, but that was easily eclipsed by John Goodman dancing on a bar and dropping his pants.
  • Here's another example of the lack of reality in today's cinema. John Goodman was hit by a car. He was hurt, and the car was OK.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1, and there are a lot of features

  • 6 additional minutes of never before seen footage in the movie

  • Full-length commentary from from Jerry Bruckheimer, director David McNally and the Coyotes

  • featurette on the search for the lead

  • featurette on the spirit of the coyotes

  • featurette on filming the bar scenes

  • about a half dozen deleted scenes (all awful)

  • a music video (LeAnn Rimes)


  • Original theatrical version: none. Izabella Miko showed the side of her hip, and a little more, but her panties were on
  • In the extended cut, Piper Perabo has a sex scene. Her bum is seen clearly, although she wears a thong at the time. Breasts are seen, but never in the same frame as a face.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: one and a half stars. Berardinelli 1/4, Ebert 2/4, Apollo 42/100.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.4, Obviously, the rank-and-file liked it better than the critics.
  • With their dollars ... it was a pretty fair hit - about $60 million US, $40 million overseas. The production budget was $45 million.
My guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C-. I'd like to rate it lower,, but I can't do so according to the definition above. The people for whom this movie was made did and will continue to like it. Women rate it 6.0 at IMDb. Females under 18 rate it it 6.9. Yet the top 1000 reviewers at IMDb rate it 4.9, and the critics despised it. Obviously, it is a picture which appeals to a niche market, but which appalls others (like the critics -  and me, for that matter).

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