|by Peter Sobczynski
In which your humble scribe confronts the guiltiest of guilty pleasures, points out a couple of long-lost cult classics, embarrasses himself over a few pretty faces and waxes ecstatic about television’s greatest coroner to such a degree that the entire column winds up popping out a couple of days early.
As I have said before, I don’t put too much stock in the concept of a “guilty pleasure”–the kind of film that you are slightly ashamed to admit that you enjoy because it is of a trashier nature. For me, my enjoyment of a film has nothing to do with its pedigree–if I enjoy something that could kindly be considered to be junk, I will proudly admit it without hemming or hawing. Hell, with their unpretentious nature, I sometimes prefer lower-rent junk to more prestigious titles–if I had to choose between the “Lord of the Rings” films and the “Resident Evil” films, I would pick the latter in a heartbeat because even though I recognize that they aren’t as important or as ambitious as the “LOTR” saga, I had a hell of a lot more fun watching Milla Jovovich kill zombies while wearing skimpy cocktail dresses.
Therefore, I am not ashamed to admit a fondness for the infamous 2000 film “Coyote Ugly,” which is getting re-released on DVD this week in a new “Unrated Extended Cut.” In fact, I am willing to go to the highest mountain–or at least a barely-read DVD column–to proclaim my utter adoration for the film. Simply put, it is a work of genius from beginning to end–it is so utterly naked in its desire to entertain viewers at all costs and does so in such weird ways that I am vaguely convinced that it may be the greatest, purest cinematic masterpiece that the American film industry has ever produced. Sure, sure, some of you may blanch at such a statement, but I would personally take this film over the entire works of John Cassavetes without blinking an eye.
“Coyote Ugly,” for those of you who missed it in the theaters, on video or during the three zillion times that it has appeared on cable, tells the story of Violet (the incredibly fetching Piper Perabo), an adorable Jersey Girl who leaves her home and father (John Goodman) to make it in the big city as a singer-songwriter. That dream kind of craps out–partially because she suffers from stage fright–and she is down to her last nickel when she stumbles into a job at Coyote Ugly, a hole-in-the-wall bar that seems to be owned and run entirely by super-hot fashion model types–a sexy owner-with-a-heart-of-gold (Maria Bello), a sexy hard-ass (Bridget Moynahan), a sexy sassy gal (Tyra Banks) and a sexy dumb blonde (Isabelle Miko). Before long, Violet is wearing the tiniest clothes imaginable and joining her comrades atop the bar to taunt and inflame the horny customers with fully choreographed line dances–occasionally, the heat of the moment forces them to dump pitchers of water over each other for further artistic effect. Somehow, this atmosphere, along with the love of some anonymous lunk (Adam Garcia) inspires Violet to face her demons, become an assured performer and spend the finale gyrating atop the bar with LeeAnn Rimes in a sequences that may look like a gratuitous music video but . . . okay, so it is a gratuitous music video, but one that only an ogre or a eunuch could fail to appreciate.
Okay, so there is the possibility that “Coyote Ugly” might be one of the sillier movies ever made. Actually, you might want to replace “possibility” with “certainty.” And yet, I don’t care because it is such a compelling hunk of pure cinematic junk food that I can’t resist its siren song ever time I come across it on the tube. Sure, its surface charms are self-evident–you can’t go wrong with a cast so babe-heavy that Tyra Banks could be considered one of the lesser lookers–but my adoration goes far beyond that. What I adore about the film is that it is just so conceptually odd and bizarre. Even though it is basically an excuse to ogle a bunch of pretty girls, the filmmakers have chosen to couch it in weirdly quasi-feminist terms–since the girls are exploiting their own bodies, we are supposed to read the gyrations and wet T-shirts as liberating examples of Girl Power at its finest. Even funnier, from my point of view, is that it is a T&A film that never quite gets around to displaying any actual T and/or A. Some will try to tell you that this was simply a transparent attempt by producer Jerry Bruckheimer to score an all-important PG-13 rating to lure the kids in. Personally, I think it was a bold and brilliant artistic choice that transcends cynicism into something close to genius–trust me, this is the kind of film that could inspire an avalanche of grad-school papers.
And yet, I must admit that while the notion of an “Unrated Extended Version” of “Coyote Ugly” thrilled me in theory when I first heard about it, the reality is a little bit disappointing. Yes, this version adds a few extra minutes to the running time and, in a refreshing change from extended cuts that promise footage too hot for theaters that turns out to be too dull to be believed, the major change here is an extended version of the comic book store love scene between Perabo and Garcia (a scene that noted comics buff Kevin Smith, who did an uncredited polish on the script, assured me was not his idea) that features genuine gratuitous nudity. However, the inclusion of said nudity–and I know how strange this sounds–simply doesn’t work and distracts to such a degree that it throws the entire film out of whack. First, it is really obvious that a body double for Perabo has been used–even if you didn’t happen to notice that the double is at least a couple of bra sizes larger, you can’t help but noticing that throughout most of the scene, “Violet” is only seen from the neck down. The other problem is that, as I said, one of the charms of the film for me was the surreal conceit of it being a T&A extravaganza that never got around to showing any real T&A. By throwing in actual nudity, that unique conceit is gone and it becomes just another jiggle fest. (The other additions include a goofy softball game, a little more from John Goodman and Tyra Banks and a slight extension of the infamous Water Dance.)
This does not in any way change my opinion of the genius of “Coyote Ugly”–it is still an incredibly entertaining bit of fluff that I feel no shame in loving without hesitation. However, while the additions might have seemed like a good idea (especially for the folks at Buena Vista Home Entertainment), I have the same view towards “Coyote Ugly: The Unrated Extended Version” that I have towards “Apocalypse Now Redux.”–while I am happy to see the new footage (with the exception of the love scene), I suspect that when I obsessively rewatch the film in the years to come (and I know that I will), I will most likely continue to reach for the original cut.
Written by Gina Wendkos. Directed by David McNally. Starring Piper Perabo, Adam Garcia, Maria Bello, Melanie Lynskey, Bridget Moynahan, Tyra Banks and Isabelle Miko. 2000. 107 minutes. Unrated. A Buena Vista Home Video release. $19.98
NEW AND NOTABLE
THE AGRONOMIST (New Line Home Video. $27.95): Combining his long-standing interest in the current political and social situations in Haiti with his fondness for alternating high-profile films with quirky documentaries, Jonathan Demme made this flawed-but-interesting look at Jean Dominique, a human-rights advocate and radio broadcaster whose long fight for the rights of his country’s people led to his assassination in 2000.
BE COOL (MGM Home Entertainment. $27.98): No, it wasn’t as good as “Get Shorty” by a long shot. However, this sequel does have enough of its own charms–an agreeably slap-happy cast and the long-awaited reunion of John Travolta and Uma Thurman on the dance floor–to make it worth a look.
BEYOND THE SEA (Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment. $27.98): Kevin Spacey’s long-planned dream film–a biopic on the life of Bobby Darin that he would both star in (despite being far too old for the part) and direct–is an unmitigated disaster by any standard. However, the combination of its sheer awfulness and Spacey’s conviction that he has made a tour-de-force masterpiece is so bizarre that it is almost worth watching.
DEAD RINGERS (Warner Home Video. $19.95): For those of you not lucky enough to own the out-of-print Criterion edition of David Cronenberg’s 1988 masterpiece, in which Jeremy Irons turned in his two finest performances to date as a pair of deeply disturbed twin gynecologists, this reissue should prove to be satisfactory. Although it leaves off the excellent Criterion commentary track, it does feature a new one from Irons himself explaining the immense technical challenges that went into his work.
D.E.B.S. (Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment. $24.98): While I would take it over the monstrous depths of “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” any day of the week, this unholy collision between a spy spoof, a gay-themed After-School Special and a fetish video features a lot of pretty faces in short skirts and not much else.
THE DRIVER (Fox Home Video. $9.98): Largely overlooked and ignored in the years since its 1978 release, this is simply one of the greatest action films ever made one of the finest works from the similarly underrated director Walter Hill. In it, Ryan O’Neal (in a surprisingly tough and lean performance) stars as an emotionally isolated man who is totally dedicated to his career as the world greatest getaway driver who meets his match in an equally obsessed cop played by Bruce Dern. Even though the film is 27 years old, the chases and stunts on display here are still comparable in quality to anything that has appeared on the screen in recent years.
THE DUCHESS AND THE DIRTWATER FOX (Fox Home Video. $9.98): All I remember about this 1976 George Segal-Goldie Hawn comedy-western is that Hawn sang some song admonishing people not to touch her “plums” and that my parents used to like it a lot. So, if you are my parents or deeply obsessed with produce, I can recommend this disc to you unreservedly.
FATHER OF THE PRIDE: THE COMPLETE SERIES ($29.95. Universal Home Video.): After all, who wouldn’t want to pay $30 to purchase a TV series that they couldn’t be bothered to watch when it appeared for the first time on free television?
GONE IN 60 SECONDS: DIRECTOR’S CUT(Buena Vista Home Video. $19.99): Under normal circumstances, the notion of sitting through a longer version of this uber-annoying 2000 car-crash extravaganza (a shadow of the thrilling 1974 original) would be unimaginable. However, considering that the “Coyote Ugly” re-edit features honest-to-goodness nudity, I suppose there is a hope that Angelina Jolie’s otherwise meaningless role has been literally fleshed out. Probably not, but a guy can hope, can’t he?
THE HONEYMOONERS-CLASSIC 39 EPISODES (Paramount Home Video. $39.99): With all due respect to Cedric the Entertainer, there can only be one Ralph Kramden and he can be found within the covers of this box set. No bonuses to speak of–just 39 episodes of sitcom glory that will never grow stale with the passage of time.
HOUSE OF BAMBOO (Fox Home Entertainment. $14.95): Kicking off their second wave of film noir titles (the first batch included “Laura,” “Call Northside 777" and “Panic in the Streets”), Fox gives us the long-awaited release of yet another film from iconoclastic cult filmmaker Sam Fuller. In this typically lurid and overheated 1955 thriller, a remake of 1948's “The Street With No Name,” Robert Ryan plays a crime boss in post-war Japan who specializes in robbing Army supply trains and Robert Stack is the undercover cop who joins the gang in order to bring them down. Other titles in the wave include the terrifying carny melodrama “Nightmare Alley” and the original “The Street With No Name.”
LOIS & CLARK-THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Warner Home Video. $59.95): I guess it is only a matter of time before the box set of “Sunday Dinner: The Complete Series” hits the shelves.
MACGYVER-THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Paramount Home Video. $39.99): Having seen what can happen when a schmuck film critic makes fun of this show in front of the wrong people, I shall simply mention that it is coming out and quietly move along.
THE MACHINIST (Paramount Home Video. $29.99): For those of you eager to see what is beneath the Batsuit, enjoy this creepy psychodrama in which an emaciated Christian Bale is haunted by demons that may or may not be entirely in his head.
THE MINI-SKIRT MOB/CHROME AND HOT LEATHER (MGM Home Entertainment. $14.95): A pair of 60's biker epics make their debut on this double-feature disc and both feature strange appearances from unlikely people–Harry Dean Stanton pops up in the former while Marvin Gaye inexplicably drop in on the latter.
NEWLYWEDS-NICK AND JESSICA-THE COMPLETE SECOND AND THIRD SEASONS (Paramount Home Video. $38.99): How many other times this summer are you going to have the opportunity to contribute your hard-earned money to a potential community property settlement and feel ironic about it at the same time?
QUINCY: SEASONS 1 & 2 (Universal Home Video. $39.98): Frankly, you can keep your “C.S.I.” and your “Crossing Jordan”and their various offspring. When I am looking for quality autopsy-based entertainment, the search begins and ends with everyone’s favorite two-fisted, hard-drinking, skirt-chasing coroner, the immortal Jack Klugman. Every season of this series needs to be released immediately so that I can finally own a copy of the legendary punk-rock episode, which does for punk music roughly what “Reefer Madness” did for dope.
SHAKIRA-FIJACION ORAL (Sony Music. $18.98): Granted, this is actually the latest CD from Colombia’s greatest export but since it is a DualDisc–one of those new things from Sony that contains the CD on one side and DVD content on the other, including a 5.1 remix of the album–I feel completely justified in mentioning it. Okay, I’m also mentioning it because the DVD content also includes the smoking-hot video for her latest song “La Tortura,” in which she spends most of her time coated in oil and belly-dancing.
SLING BLADE-DIRECTOR’S CUT (Miramax Home Entertainment. $19.99): Fans of Billy Bob Thornton’s 1996 breakthrough film can get rid of their old bare-bones discs for the feature-packed 2-disc set. Among the bonuses here are number of interviews-new and archival-with Thornton and other participants, the commentary track that Thornton recorded for the long-unavailable Criterion laserdisc and the original uncut version of the film. However, it does not contain the original short film, “Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade,” an absence that is, considering the amount of other extras, fairly inexplicable.
STRIPES-EXTENDED CUT (Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment. $19.94): All I have to say about this hilarious service comedy is the when Bill Murray gets his eventual tribute from the American Film Institute, the clip reel had damn well better feature his inspirational speech to his fellow soldiers where he badgers them about whether they cried during “Old Yeller.”
UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (Fox Home Video. $9.98): Preston Sturges’s legendary 1948 black comedy–in which a desperately jealous orchestra conductor (Rex Harrison) imagines that his wife is conducting something herself (an affair) and ineptly tries to put his murderous fantasies into action–was remade in 1984 as a slapstick vehicle for Dudley Moore to do his stumbling-drunk schtick. While it never comes close to the inspired heights of the original, this version does have a couple of worthwhile assets–Albert Brooks is pretty hysterical as Moore’s manager (and supposedly supplied most of his own dialogue) and Nastassja Kinski, as Moore’s wife, is so impossibly charming and sexy that you can understand how she could drive any man to murderous distraction.
WHAT’S NEW, PUSSYCAT? (MGM Home Entertainment. $14.95): This 1965 comedy extravaganza is a pretty bad film–it is loud, crude and shapeless–and it is hardly a surprise to learn that Woody Allen (making his screenwriting and acting debuts) pretty much disowned the final film as a bastardization of his original work the moment that it premiered. However, scattered amidst the confusion and screaming are a few funny lines and inspired performances from Peter O’Toole (as a playboy visiting a psychiatrist to cure him of his sexual peccadillos) and Peter Sellers (as the shrink who is far more messed-up than his patients). Oh yeah, I think there is also a theme song of some repute to be found here as well.
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=1512
originally posted: 06/09/05 01:32:17
last updated: 06/20/05 10:54:09