Our bar hopping journey jumps twelve years ahead from 1988’s Cocktail to 2000’s Coyote Ugly. Will the Jerry Bruckheimer produced film be as entertaining as the Tom Cruise vehicle? Let’s find out.

The Plot

Violet (Piper Perabo) has big dreams. She leaves her smalltown in New Jersey and her father Bill (John Goodman) with hopes of hitting it big in New York City as a songwriter. Arriving in the city that never sleeps, Violet works hard to create a demo tape and sends multiple copies to talent agencies and recording studios, only to be rejected.

Though she starts a relationship with Kevin (Adam Garcia), Violet is not having any luck with her song writing. At an all-night café she overhears three women, Cammie (Izabella Miko), Rachel (Bridget Moynahan) and Zoe (Tyra Banks) talking about their rowdy night out and counting the money they earned. Violet learns that they are bartenders at Coyote Ugly, and that Zoe is leaving her job.

Violet finds the bar and meets the owner, Lil (Maria Bello). After some conversation, Lil agrees to hire her temporarily. Being a bartender at Coyote Ugly is not an ordinary job. When Violet walks in for her first shift, she sees a rowdy bar and Cammie and Rachel dancing on top of the bar in multiple suggestive ways.

Hesitant at first, Violet adapts and starts to love her job. She learns to play to the crowd and for a moment she overcomes her stage fright and sings in front of the bar patrons. As time moves on Violet starts to embrace the Coyote Ugly lifestyle, and this causes her problems with Kevin and her father.

The confidence that she once had starts to evaporate. Violet’s relationship with Kevin hits a snag. Her father is injured at work, and this upheaval in her life has caused Violet to wonder if she should move back home. Her dad refuses and encourages her to continue her song writing. The pep talk from her father and leaving Coyote Ugly has Violet on the right path.

Her demo tap is accepted for a song competition. Hesitant at first, Violet heads to the competition only to have an attack of stage fright. Kevin is there thanks to a timely phone call from Lil, and Violet performs her song ‘Can’t Fight the Moonlight’.

Three months later, Violet is back at Coyote Ugly as LeAnn Rimes records her song to a packed bar. Not only is Violet’s song writing career on track, but her relationship with Kevin is flourishing.


Cinematic Compliments

Piper Perabo is sweet and adorable as Violet. Perabo makes the character believable and gives the role credibility and humanity. In a world that seems silly and beyond belief it’s Perabo’s acting ability that makes Violet stand out. The audience will root for Violet’s success because of Piper Perabo.

The relationship between Violet and Kevin is like many rom coms of before but Perabo and Adam Garcia make it work. They both come across as genuine twentysomethings trying to make it in the real world.

Cinematic Complaints

The bar scenes at Coyote Ugly are silly and go beyond silly into the realm of ridiculous. The water scene is gratuitous and degrading. Bridget Moynahan and Izabella Miko get little dialogue and spend most of the film dancing on the bar. When Moynahan’s allowed to unleash her character's anger and punches a guy at Violet’s performance it single handedly outshines anything that happened at the bar.

My biggest problem with the bar scenes is that Coyote Ugly paints a cinematic portrayal of dancing girls on a bar that never make a mistake and always shine. There is no way that transpired in real life perfectly the way it did on screen. I would have loved to see one of the girls fall off the bar a few times, because that would have lent some credibility to the scene. The scene where the girls are soaking themselves in water is well shot for a movie but would have looked silly in the real world.

I remember in the early 2000’s the effect this film had on bars. In Ottawa, Canada, there was one bar in the downtown area that would light the bar on fire just like in this movie. Then the female bar staff would dance on top of the bar to attract patrons. Should this have happened? No! The glossiness of film can influence the public, and the make believe world of Coyote Ugly in the real world looked ridiculous and dangerous. God knows how many people were injured in stunts like this during the time.  

Twelve years after Cocktail, another bartender movie comes along that sees a young protagonist seeking success in the big city only to turn to bartending. While new in town, Tom Cruise turns to flair bartending and becomes a local celebrity. Piper Perabo also turns to flair bartending at a popular bar but the difference is that the female bartenders are expected to dance suggestively on top of the bar while dressed in skimpy clothes. Tom Cruise had it easy compared to Piper Perabo.

Fun Film Facts

  • The movie is based on an article from GQ magazine titled “The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon” written by Elizabeth Gilbert.
  • The article details Gilbert’s perspective when she worked at the real Coyote Ugly.
  • Johnny Knoxville has a cameo in the film as a customer at the bar.
  • The Calling is the band playing at the club where Kevin works at when Violet first meets him.
  • Jessica Simpson and January Jones auditioned for the role of Violet.
  • Alex Borstein has a cameo at the end of the film in the bar.
  • Director Michael Bay has a cameo as a photographer in the bar.
  • While John Goodman has admitted that he did the film for the money, test audiences loved him. Extra scenes were reportedly added because test audiences wanted more of Goodman.
  • Tyra Banks is in all promotional media for the film but has very few scenes.
  • Carol Ann Susi who played Mrs. Wolowitz in The Big Bang Theory also appears at the end of the film in a cameo role in the bar.
  • Kevin Smith did some uncredited script doctoring for the film.
  • The real bar has been franchised with locations all around the world. The original Coyote Ugly bar was opened in New York by Liliana Lovell.
  • The soundtrack for the film lasted a year on the Billboard Top 40 Album Chart.
  • The film didn’t win any Oscars but it did win an American Music Award for Top Soundtrack and two Blockbuster Entertainment Awards for best song and for Maria Bello’s performance.

The Golden Popcorn Bucket Award

Coyote Ugly gets ½ a Golden Popcorn Bucket Award. Piper Perabo deserves better roles, and this movie should be left in the year 2000.

Coming Attractions

Next week we look at another Jerry Bruckheimer film that should have been a major blockbuster but wasn’t, 2004’s King Arthur.

Production Credits

Directed by David McNally

Produced by Touchstone Pictures / Jerry Bruckheimer Films

Starring:

  • Piper Perabo as Violet
  • Maria Bello as Lil
  • Izabella Miko as Cammie
  • Bridget Moynahan as Rachel
  • Adam Garcia as Kevin
  • John Goodman as Bill
  • Tyra Banks as Zoe          

Release Date: August 4, 2000

Budget: $45 million

Box Office Gross

Domestic: $60,786,269

Worldwide Total: $113,916,474