Footloose (1984)

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— Guest post by Wolff —

Ok, so I will be going out to North Dakota for a bit starting today (no worries there will still be posts, I just may be a little slower to respond) and to mark this momentous occasion, I decided to review the first movie I thought of that I liked and that had to do with the midwest: Footloose. Directed by Herbert Ross, this movie came out in 1984 and made a star out of its male lead, Kevin Bacon. It has some other pretty big names in it too for example: John Lithgow, Chris Penn, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Dianne West; not to mention the songs it sent to the top 40: Holding Out for a Hero, Let’s Hear it for the Boy, and of course Footloose. It even spawned a stage musical beginning in 1999 and a remake in 2011; neither of which I’ll be discussing in this post. Suffice it to say, this film is kind of a big deal. Like always, expect spoilers in the first 2 paragraphs!

The movie opens in the midst of a sermon being given by Reverend Shaw Moore (John Lithgow) in the fictional small town of Bomont. When service is over we meet new kid Ren McCormick (Kevin Bacon) who moved out to Bomont from Chicago with his mother (Francis Lee McCain) to live with her brother while they get back on their. Right away Ren gets off on the wrong foot with the adults when he interrupts their discussion about banning Slaughterhouse-5 from the school curriculum by saying that he thinks it is a classic. The next day at school, Ren makes friends with local Willard Hewitt (Chris Penn) and attracts the attention of Reverend Moore’s rebellious daughter Ariel (Lori Singer). He also attracts the attention of her boyfriend Chuck (Jim Youngs) and is consequently challenged to a game of chicken, on tractors. By sheer luck he wins and earns the respect of his peers. Unfortunately the adults in the town keep finding faults with him, and pressure mounts.

Along the way, Ren finds out from Willard that, after an incident some years ago where several teens (including Ariel’s brother, the reverend’s son) were killed drinking and driving from a late-night rave, the town outlawed dancing and pop music. Ren decides that the best way to get the town to loosen up is to raise the restriction, so he makes it his goal to have an official senior prom at the end of the school year. The movement faces severe backlash from the community, escalating to the point that bricks with threatening messages are being thrown through the windows of the house where Ren is staying. But Ren does his best to present his argument in a reasonable way to the city council and prepares in other ways, such as spreading flyers and teaching Willard how to dance. With mounting ill-will from the community, Ren must find a way to help them move on from their puritanical views.

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When I sat down to watch this, I thought I had a pretty good idea of where it would go, and what it would do to get there. And for the most part it did, at the end of the day Footloose is a pretty typical 80’s teen movie. What I was not expecting was the sheer amount of depth in all of the main characters. I was blown away by how this movie, which so easily could have relied on stereotypes and character tropes and still have been successful, creates real people out of characters in a somewhat ridiculous situation (though not that ridiculous, the movie is partially based off of events that occurred in Elmore City, Oklahoma). Ariel is rebellious, but she doesn’t hate her father. There are scenes between the two where it is very clear that their relationship has broken up because neither knows what to say to the other, and the pain of the disconnection is palpable. There’s a scene at the very beginning of the film where the reverend walks in on Ariel and a bunch of other teens having an impromptu dance party at a drive in fast food joint, and I was expecting fireworks. Instead he just has this very small, defeated look on his face, and simply tells Ariel that her mother was concerned about her, reminding her to get home by her curfew. Then he leaves. And that was it. But it wasn’t, because that scene spoke volumes about his relationship with his daughter, and that was only the beginning.

Dianne West plays Reverend Moore’s wife, and her character was honestly one of the ones I was expecting the least of. But it is shown that, while she loves and supports her husband, she does not agree with his feelings on dancing.The reverend himself also undergoes some pretty significant character development; I expected him to be a typical bible-thumping, fire-and-brimstone-spouting, small-town-stereotype of a preacher, but he wasn’t. It was clear that his feelings on dancing came from his son’s death, not really biblical reasons. Honestly I had a lot of sympathy for the guy, and he was the main antagonist.

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Other than the, in my opinion, superb characters (and really all the actors deserve a shoutout too for a job well done) like I said the movie is a pretty typical 80’s teen affair. There’s some drugs, light nudity in a boy’s locker room scene, and some swearing. Personally I am a really big fan of 80’s pop, so I loved the soundtrack, but they do play Footloose like 3 times throughout the course of the movie, so I can see where someone would get tired of it. All in all I think it’s a good movie that definitely deserves a watch, a great summer film or something to watch at a sleepover with friends.

“You won’t get any dancing here, it’s illegal.”

— Gust post by Wolff —

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2 responses to “Footloose (1984)

  1. I agree Footloose is a fun movie, and if Kenny Loggin’s theme song doesn’t get stuck in your head after watching this movie something might just be wrong.

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