Twitter Plot Summary: Kevin Bacon arrives in a small town that has banned dancing, and sets out to establish an end of year dance for his high school.
There’s little that could be considered as so definitively of its era as 1984’s Footloose, a film so cranked up on cheese and joyful 80s pop and hair metal songs that you either enjoy it for what it is or set yourself up to look like a heartless swine. What you can take away from it, whatever your opinion may be, is that it is a clear cut example of the classic movie archetype of kids rebelling against the system and the established order. These days the same story would probably be told in the form of a post-apocalyptic Young Adult novel adaptation. That’s ignoring the woeful 2011 remake, of course. We’d be better off denying the existence of that film and just moving along quietly.
It’s down to a frighteningly young Kevin Bacon, as small town newcomer Ren McCormack, to rebel against a small town’s decision to ban rock music and dancing – in other words, any possible fun that kids could have in that state – and to prove once and for all that youngsters do occasionally have the right ideas. Or, you know, something to that effect. You can tell immediately that something is slightly off given that the only way he knows to deal with his woes is through dance. At least he is a fan of Slaughterhouse-Five, that’s something he has going for him at least, even if the township doesn’t acknowledge Vonnegut’s text as a classic.
John Lithgow is always a welcome presence, especially when he gets to crank the villainy up as far as the dial will go (possibly up to 11 if Spinal Tap have any say in the matter), and he is impeccable as the antagonistic Reverend Shaw Moore. He’s a man with his own personal and tragic reasons for wanting to limit youth activities in his town, and he is ably met by an equally deep performance from Dianne Wiest as his wife Vi.
And where else would you get a tractor battle set to the tune of Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero? Or Kevin Bacon’s twinkle toes lighting up the dance floor? Or Sarah Jessica Parker’s poodle hairstyle? If that’s your sort of thing then Footloose is a perfect film, more so if you also have a penchant for quick-footed dance moves.
It’s almost, but not quite the polar opposite of Saturday Night Fever. Where that film was gritty and covered quite adult themes despite having a superb disco soundtrack, this is fluffy and light and has an equally superb pop rock soundtrack. Not that it doesn’t have its darker moments – Ariel (Lori Singer), the daughter of Rev Moore, is constantly putting herself into life or death situations as the only way she knows to rebel against her father’s strict beliefs. It may often be cited as a poster child for a typical cheesy 80s dance film, but imagine how bad it could have been if they had taken everything absolutely seriously? Actually, taking a glance at the 2011 remake, we’re better off with the original being precisely as it is, thank you very much.