Dir: Herbert Ross, 1984
The late seventies and through the eighties, was the era of the dance movies.
Possibly spurred on by the success of Saturday Night Fever, Hollywood churned them out, a dime a dozen.
Staying Alive, Breakin’ It, The Apple, Flashdance and Dirty Dancing are some of the more famous, but the list wouldn’t be complete without Footloose.
After turning heads in Barry Levinson’s Diner a year earlier, Footloose was Kevin Bacon’s breakout film.
Moving with his mum to live with his aunty and uncle in Bomont, Ren (Bacon) soon makes waves by breaking the town’s archaic laws.
A very religious town, the minister, Reverend Shaw (John Lithgow), has control over the community and convinced the council to ban dancing, as it’s dangerous and promotes immoral thoughts and behaviour.
Ren rallies his new friends, and challenges the law.
Unfairly labelled as just a dance film, there’s more to Footloose, than just the dancing.
Ironically, despite the title, there’s very little dancing in it. The story is more about coming of age and morals.
Kevin Bacon does pretty good as Ren. Likeable and not too cocky, you’re firmly on his side, all the way through.
Footloose can also be seen as a criticism of the hold that the religious right has on America. Despite being enshrined in law, the separation of church and state isn’t always adhered to, and often becomes a totalitarian state, with ministers and their congregation becoming two-bit despots.
Director Ross, emphasises his disdain for the regime and isn’t afraid to show the bigoted views and simple-minded mentality with the overt air of snobbery that accompanies such people. This supplies Ren, with the support and ammunition needed for us to root for him.
Being an eighties movie (and an early one, at that), Footloose is riddled with cliches and cheesiness. It’s difficult to look at the film, without smirking in several places. Unintentionally funny, Bacon’s infamous “angry dance”, is incredibly poor, and looks just like some youth flinging his arms and legs about.
A fascinating aspect of the film, is seeing the late Chris Penn (brother of Sean) and Sarah Jessica Parker before they made it famous. A rather pretty girl in her younger years, Parker is the reverse of an ugly duckling.
But Footloose is quite enjoyable, in its own way. Certainly no masterpiece, and time has not treated the film well, but it’s not as bad as the poster would make you believe, nor is it a chick flick.