By Colin Moore
Bomont isn’t your average Midwestern American town. Dancing has been abolished. Drinking too. Even a boom-box blaring pop-and-chip music at a popular diner is a no-no. It’s snapped off by a certain member of the town council. Of course we know by now that it’s none other than Reverend Moore (John Lithgow), the over-protective hand that rocks the town cradle and that tries in vain to control his teenage daughter Ariel (Lori Singer). In vain because Ariel is attracted to the things that attract the age: movement, passion and the world beyond the picket fence.
She finds them all in Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon), a high-school senior who moves to Bomont with his Mom and more liberal sensibilities. He cruises the town blasting hard rock from a tape player, calls Slaughterhouse Five “a classic” and favors dress shirts (and leather ties) over plaid. It doesn’t go over well with some of the locals, including Ariel’s meathead squeeze, Chuck (Jim Youngs). He quickly takes a disliking to Ren and challenges him to a game of tractor-chicken to prove his manhood. Jump back!
”Footloose” is a 1984 musical drama and box-office hit, one of a long list of Hollywood movies where the divide between adolescents and their elders plays a central role. But given the size of its company, what makes this film so special? Here are a few reasons:
1. The Music – Footloose has a simple but catchy soundtrack that essentially speaks to the lead characters’ states of mind. “The Girl Gets Around,” “Holding Out For a Hero,” and “Never” are memorable cuts along with a title track that still finds its way into wedding receptions a quarter of a century later.
2. The Actors – Bacon sizzles. Seriously though, Footloose is a film whose actors genuinely inhabit the roles. Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe were early choices to play Ren, the role that cemented Kevin Bacon’s film career (along with ”Diner”) after leaner parts in John Landis’ ”Animal House” and ”Friday the 13th”. Others actors you might recognize are Christopher Penn as Ren’s rhythm-starved friend Willard, and a pre-Sex in the City Sarah Jessica Parker as Rusty.
3. The Warehouse Dance – Yeah, you know this. The tight undershirt. The shaded seclusion. The defiant slinging of a beer bottle. What could be hotter? Nothing in Ariel’s eyes. For her, watching Ren blow off his culture shock in the company of lumber and old ropes is the clincher. But their time alone also gives her the chance to show a more vulnerable side. She’s not all cowboy boots and chicken wings.
4. A Battle for Something Bigger than Love – Ren takes on the town council and the ordinance that bans public displays of fancy footwork. His goal is to hold a dance for the graduating class, a rite of celebration he feels they’re entitled to. But he also does it to make the difference he couldn’t before his father left the family. To quote Mr. Ren – “I realized that everything I’d done hoping that he’d stay, everything I’d done, it didn’t mean shit. But now, now I’m thinking I could really do something, you know? I could really do something for me this time. Otherwise I’m just gonna disappear.” You go Ren-friend.
5. Watered-down Acts of Rebellion – Making out. Smoking weed. Saucing the parents. All the classics are here but nothing so dark or piercing as to corrupt the audience. Like Rebel Without a Cause, Footloose is light enough to work for late-adolescents or families. That being said, these acts are still bad enough for younger kids to feel good about watching.
6. Victory – After a persuasive speech that even quotes scripture for God’s sake, the council votes Ren down. He only loses the battle however. Ren finds a way to hold the dance inches beyond Bomont’s outer limits and Moore sanctions it from the pulpit. Imagine that. It seems the preacher’s seen the light, and learned a thing or two about trusting his flock to find their own way. Wise man. All that’s left is the party.
“Let’s dance!” Ren shouts out in a decorated dance hall. Why not. But are you thinking what I’m thinking? By the look of this graduating class, I’d say that more than a few have been polishing their dance moves in between harvests.
Blu-ray details and extras :
Awful. Compression artificats, grain, non-realistic flesh tones and a warped look make “Footloose” one heck of a don’t-go zone, guys. Thankfully, the 6.1 soundtrack is much, much better – in fact, just turned the TV off and listen to the music, it’s the best you’ve heard the “Footloose” soundtrack play in years. If not ever.
Extras-wise, the release delivers. There are two commentaries, one from Kevin Bacon that’s very informative and entertaining, and another from Producer Craig Zadan and Writer Dean Pitchford that’s also smart and entertaining; there’s a great making-of; a tribute to Chris Penn; a piece on then-unknown Sarah Jessica Parker and her climb to the top [of Mr Big’s chest]; numerous other featurettes; a costume montage; Kevin Bacon’s original screentest for ‘Ren'; and the trailer – in 1080p.