Loose, footloose, kick off your Sunday shoes
Hitting the cinema in 1984 and starring Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, Chris Penn as well as Sarah Jessica Parker, "Footloose" is a movie which despite featuring various over the top cheesy scenes also features a foot tapping soundtrack and is surprisingly entertaining. It has to be said that "Footloose" is very typical of an 80's movie featuring young pretty faces that despite not being the most honed of stars turn an average movie into something more memorable with their energetic performances. Well let's be honest it can't be terrible as not only is there a successful stage version but a "Footloose" remake on the way.
When teenager Ren McCormick (Kevin Bacon - Animal House) is forced to relocate to a small Midwestern town, his worse nightmare comes true, as the towns uptight leaders have banned his favourite pastime, dancing and anything else that the young people may enjoy doing. Determined to breathe life back into the small town, Ren, with the help of his new best friend Willard (Chris Penn - Rumble Fish) and the local minister's daughter Ariel (Lori Singer - The Man with One Red Shoe), start a revolt to allow all young people to enjoy what is rightfully theirs.
The plot to "Footloose" is your basic teenagers rebelling against the adults who control their lives, which in this case is the over the top decision to ban the towns teenagers from enjoying loud music and dancing. It does seem a remarkably weak premise to build a movie around but one which works remarkably well allowing "Footloose" to be studded with various memorable dance scenes and typical teen angst. What is particularly nice is that the movie cleverly builds into the story the reasoning behind the town's decision to ban teenage frivolity and although you are still drawn to champion the young rebels, you hold a sort of sympathy towards the town's elders for making their decision.
One noticeable difference between "Footloose" and other movies from the 80s teenage genre is the seemingly rawness of the whole production. Where many similar movies would include a couple of scenes purely to raise a giggle from the audience, "Footloose" never seems to rely on these contrived humorous sequences, the closest it ever gets to feeling contrived in a comedy sense is when Ren teaches the uncoordinated Willard to dance, which does make you laugh. But it is not just the lack of contrived comedy, but also the dialogue and acting, which again feels pretty raw that gives a different feeling to similar movies.
Of course the key to success of any teenage movie is whether the viewer can associate themselves with the characters, and "Footloose" scores heavily is this area. I remember watching this in my teens and wanting to be Ren, because he was cool, he could dance, he attracted the girls and was a rebel, in fact even watching it now I still want to be Ren, but then I still want to live in the 80s. It's not just the character of Ren which drags you in and every single character has something about them that you can recognize in other people. But it's not only the characters which appeals to the audience but the situation of teenagers rebelling against parental rule which also attracts the target audience. In fact out of all the movies I have watched which explore this scenario I have to say that the way "Footloose" develops it is one of the most enjoyable interpretations I have come across.
As previously mentioned, for me one of the key factors as to why I enjoy "Footloose" so much is in its rawness and that is very evident in the performances of all the stars. Although not his first big screen performance, Kevin Bacon puts in a great performance as the lead Ren McCormick, and most of this is down to the fact that he was still a young, enthusiastic actor who had not fallen into a set style. At times you get a sense that he is terrified of being in front of the camera but this helps build an edgy character which fits that of the rebel perfectly. My only criticism comes down from his ability as a dancer, he maybe 1000 times better than me but it didn't feel completely natural although at times quite amusing.
Also making an early appearance is a rather young and thin looking Chris Penn as Willard, who like Bacon appears to be a bit afraid of being in front of the camera. But then this is not really a criticism as he puts in a great performance as the teenager who is better with his fists than his feet. To be honest "Footloose" does have quite a remarkable cast list, including Lori Singer, Sarah Jessica Parker, John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest and Jim Youngs all of which put in adequate performances that fit their characters perfectly. Out of all of them the one which stands out the most is Lithgow who is excellent as the town's controlling minister as he goes on his own journey of understanding through out the movie.
One of the key reasons why I still like "Footloose" as much now as I did back in the 80s is the brilliant soundtrack which is highly typical of the era. From the title track "Footloose" through songs such as Shalamars "Dancing in the Streets", Deniece Williams "Let's Hear it For The Boys", Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out For a Hero" and "Waiting for a girl like you" by Foreigner, every single track gets your foot tapping and sometimes singing along with.
As with all movies from the 80s, "Footloose" does feel a little bit dated, most notably with some of the fashions and haircuts. But the underlying story and issues which the teenagers deal with are still as current now as they were then. To be honest the movie probably holds more charm for those who enjoyed it back in the 80s, but the again it may attract a newer younger audience, especially for those who enjoy movies such as "Dirty Dancing".
What this all boils down to is that despite some very major flaws I still really like "Footloose" and even though I don't rate it as highly as many other movies from the 80s I still feel it has something to offer even today. Probably the biggest reason why I still like "Footloose" is the soundtrack which really does get your toe tapping, but there are other elements which all work together to make it still enjoyable today.