Controversial Cult Classic Was A Critical Bomb But A Box Office Smash, Stream Without Netflix

By Robert Scucci | Updated

Coyote Ugly 2000

I recently had the displeasure of watching Coyote Ugly for the first time ever after my friends said that I’d love to hate on it, but I can see why this film was an absolute commercial hit in the year 2000. While romantic comedy-dramas aren’t typically the kind of films I seek out for leisure viewing, I’m always intrigued by films that have a massive disconnect between their critical and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes.

Coyote Ugly is a perfect film to dissect because its 23 percent critical score against its 71 percent audience score tells me that either critics completely missed the point, or that audiences are simply enjoying the film by letting their guard down and not watching it critically. However, I find that I fall somewhere in the middle because it’s a fun movie, but not without a lot of problems that are hard to overlook.

Just A Small-Town Girl…

Coyote Ugly 2000

Coyote Ugly centers on Violet Sanford (Piper Perabo), a small-town girl from South Amboy, New Jersey, who has always dreamed of moving to New York City to pursue her dreams of becoming a famous singer-songwriter. Her confidence is quickly shaken when she realizes that nobody is interested in her demo tape, mostly due to the fact that she doesn’t want to perform her music herself because of her stage fright. An emotional throughline is established when it’s revealed that she’s trying to follow in her late mother’s footsteps and that her father, Bill (John Goodman), doesn’t necessarily approve of her big-city aspirations.

Becoming A Coyote

Coyote Ugly 2000

Down on her luck and in serious need of steady employment, Violet overhears a bunch of “Coyotes” at a diner who are just getting off their shift and counting the money they earned while working at the notorious Coyote Ugly Saloon. Violet seeks out the owner, Lil (Maria Bello), lands an “audition” for a bartending job, and proves herself to be a valuable asset to the club that’s known for its female staff setting the bar on fire, swinging from the rafters, and breaking up fights when drunken patrons get too rowdy.

After Violet belts out a blistering rendition of “One Way Or Another” to subdue an unruly crowd, she finds her new home at Coyote Ugly, but still can’t shake her stage fright when it comes to performing her own music.

Violet And Kevin

Coyote Ugly 2000

Everything changes for Violet when she forms a romantic relationship with Kevin O’Donnell (Adam Garcia), a working-class man who wants to help her push her music career to the next level. Coyote Ugly truly gets ugly when Violet diverts all of her time and attention to her bartending cohorts, much to the disapproval of her father and Kevin. Just as quickly as Violet makes a name for herself as a Coyote, she burns every single bridge that once held her up as she loses site of her goals.

Patently Unlikable Protagonist

Coyote Ugly 2000

While Coyote Ugly has all the elements of an effective rom-com, it’s not without its shortcomings. The biggest issue I have with the film is that Violet is a patently unlikable protagonist, as she pushes away every single person who is actively trying to help her realize her life-long dream. She has no problem standing on top of a bar singing along with the jukebox, but repeatedly refuses to perform at open-mic outings that Kevin’s gracious enough to book for her.

Violet’s shifts in personality also lack subtlety because she goes from naive to overconfident at the drop of a hat, all while lacking the self-awareness she needs to have to become the redeeming character that I’d actually want to root for. To put it bluntly, Coyote Ugly plays out like a PG-13 version of Showgirls.

Fun If You Don’t Take It Seriously

Coyote Ugly 2000


At the end of the day, Coyote Ugly does exactly what it sets out to do. It tells a simple story about a young woman trying to follow in her mother’s footsteps. But Violet’s character is written so poorly that I found myself gritting my teeth instead of hoping she’d succeed.

However, the scenes set in the Coyote Ugly bar itself are high-energy, packed with humor, and paced in a way that makes for a solid viewing experience if you allow yourself to have just a little bit of fun. As of this writing, you can stream Coyote Ugly on Hulu, but I strongly recommend that you put on your dancing shoes first.