Footloose (1984)

2009-06-29 09:02
 
Footloose

Footloose was already twenty years old when I watched it for the first time. I thought 80s dance movies didn’t get much better than Dirty Dancing. Although Baby and Johnny’s summer tale of young love is still top of my list, Footloose starring, a gorgeous Kevin Bacon, comes a close second.

We all know the 80s didn’t hold back when it came to fashion, TV, movies and music. Some hate the decade and try to forget it ever happened. Others are a little more nostalgic about the days when consumerism and instant gratification was the name of the game.
Footloose is not a particularly soul searching or searingly serious piece of cinema, but it is a retro-fabulous celebration of music, dance, the power of youth and the importance of not giving up. This classic mid-western American rags-to-riches teenage tale made a star out of Kevin Bacon. It’s refreshing to see him in this early role as a rebellious yet vulnerable adolescent - a far cry from later, darker roles in films such as Sleepers, Murder in the First and River Wild.

Bacon plays Ren McCormack, a teenager raised in Chicago, who moves to a small conservative town for his last year of high school. The local government has banned dancing and rock music due to its supposed negative influence on the youth. Ren, as the new kid on the block, faces a lot of animosity from the local yokels. This makes Ren determined to organise a senior prom dance, against the wishes of the town elders. Helping Ren in his quest are best friend Willard (Chris Penn) and love interest Ariel (Lori Singer). Sarah Jessica Parker plays Ariel’s friend, Rusty. Considering how she later blossomed into a rather sophisticated actress, it’s pretty funny to see Parker in this spunky role. Dark haired, badly dressed (OK, it was the 80s, after all) and almost nerdy, she is eons away from the Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City fabulous fashionista we know her as today.

The soundtrack is a central feature to the film. Songwriter Dean Pitchford also wrote the screenplay and also wrote many of the movie’s signature songs, including the title track, which he co-wrote with Kinny Loggins. Selling over 9 million copies in the US, Footloose is one of the most popular movie soundtracks of all time. The infectious, country-tinged title track fuels the fun-loving, youthful spirit of the movie.

"Lets Hear It For The Boy" is played during the endearing dance montage where Ren teaches Willard how to shake it, baby! Apparently Chris Penn really couldn’t dance so it was a proper lesson. The best "aha" music moment comes when Reverend Shaw Moore, the moral authority of the town, gives the kids his blessing to have their dance. As he makes the statement, Kenny Loggins’ "I’m Free (Heaven Helps The Man)" picks up volume and the camera crosses to the thrilled expressions on Ariel and Ren’s faces. It’s a warm, fuzzy, feel-good American cinema cliché taken to the max, but is all the more satisfying for it.

The dancing, surprisingly, is rather standard. It lacks the expert choreography of Dirty Dancing or the provocative edge of Flashdance. Then again, the context of the film does not call for superb stylistic moves. The dancing rather illustrates the freedom of spirit which Footloose aspires to. Ren’s gymnastic chase through an old mill is pretty impressive though, as an energetic, over the top, clearly 80s dance sequence. Remember Jennifer Beals’ sensuous workout to Micheal Sembello’s "Maniac" or Jennifer Grey’s lesson from Patrick Swayze in more than just dancing to the strains of Eric Carmen’s "Hungry Eyes"? Yep, it’s just as iconic as those.

There were many movies like this released during the 80s. Footloose, while still fitting the mould, is one of the best of this dance movie genre. It’s a fun trip down memory lane for those who were around when big hair, cassette tapes and rollerskates were the coolest things around. And for the rest of us, it’s an interesting view into this kitsch, carefree decade.

A bit of trivia:

- The songs, "Footloose" and "Lets Hear it for the Boy" both hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and in 1985 received Academy Award nominations for Best Music (Original Song). "Footloose" also received a 1985 Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Song.

- Paramount Pictures has announced plans to fast-track a musical remake of Footloose, with plans to start filming in March of 2010. Gossip Girl star Chace Crawford has signed on to play the lead.

- Although they play teenagers, Lori Singer was 27 and Kevin Bacon was 26 during filming.

- Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe were both slated to play the lead.

- John Travolta was offered the role of Ren, but turned it down.


Memorable quotes:

Chuck: Hey, you the new kid?
(Ren nods)
Chuck: Hey, I’m talking to you. Where’d your tie go? I thought only pansies wore neckties.
Ren: Oh yeah see that? I thought only assholes used the word "pansy."

Ren: You like Men At Work?
Willard: Which men - where’d they work?
Ren: No they don’t. They’re a music group.
Willard: What do they call themselves?
Ren: Oh no. What about The Police?
Willard: What about them?
Ren: Have you heard them?
Willard: No but I’ve seen them.
Ren: What in concert?
Willard: No, behind you.

Roger Dunbar: Well round here, Reverend, it caused a lot of folks some worry.
Reverend Shaw Moore: A lot of folks worry a little too much.
Roger Dunbar: Doesn’t take much time for corruption to take root, Reverend.
Reverend Shaw Moore: And how long is that Roger? About as long as it takes compassion to die. 
Ren (to the town council): From the oldest of times, people danced for a number of reasons. They danced in prayer so that there crops would be plentiful and their hunt would be good. They danced to stay physically fit and to show their community spirit. And they danced to celebrate. That is the dancing that we’re talking about. …Ecclesiastes assures us that there is a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to laugh and a time to weep. A time to mourn and there is a time to dance. There was a time for this law but not anymore. See this is how time to dance. It is our way of celebrating life. That’s the way it was in the beginning, that’s the way its always been. It’s the way it should be now.
 

The 80s are making a comeback. Primed for the remake treatment this year, we take a look back at the movie that made the world want to dance.

preshen govender 2009/07/01 10:49 AM
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The gorgeous Kevin Bacon performance gave me pig flue
Christine Coates 2009/07/02 7:15 AM
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Great review!! It's all coming back -- Dirty Dancing, Michael Jackson -- there's going to be such a flood of nostalgia. Get writing girl -- we'll need many more reviews!
Charleen 2009/11/11 4:49 PM
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I think Kevin Bacon should be offered the lead in the re-make!!! He's still got it! Can't wait to get my toes moving again to all the great tracks....
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