For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – High School/Teen Romance Movies, here’s a review of Footloose (1984) by S.G. of Rhyme and Reason
Thanks again to Kim of Tranquil Dreams for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Reut of Sweet Archive. We will be reviewing our favorite dark comedies. Please get me your submissions by the 25th of July by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org Try to think out of the box! Great choice Reut!
Let’s see what S.G. thought of this movie:
Rock ‘n’ roll is banned,
And dancing they won’t stand
In Bomont and in many places fearing for their kids.
But Ren McCormack’s new,
And though it is taboo,
He wants the biased town to now embrace what it forbids.
Though some can barely dance,
His friends jump at the chance,
But Ren must try convincing the uneasy Reverend Shaw.
There is a time for prayer,
But too a time to dare,
And time to dance the night away regardless of the law.
As far as 1980s teen hits go, Footloose is one of the best and certainly one of the most enjoyable. Semi-based on a true story, the tale of Ren McCormack’s move to a rural town that abolished dancing also carries some memorable themes of artistic tolerance and familial understanding, in addition to the energizing soundtrack and star-making lead role for Kevin Bacon. Most of the acting is just adequate, typical of the decade and the genre, but John Lithgow’s excellent performance as the protective pastor of Bomont grounds the film, providing both a sympathetic antagonist and an anxious father figure. He elevates the film overall, but who in 1984 went to see Footloose for the acting?
The film’s biggest draw was undoubtedly the music, along with the spry choreography. Somehow I always thought that this was just another film that had gathered popular songs of the time to carry its dancing storyline. However, seeing the special features recently revealed that it is actually a musical, in which most of the songs were written for the film rather than the other way around. Artists like Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar, and Eric Carmen collaborated with lyricist Dean Pitchford to create classics like “Footloose,” “Almost Paradise,” “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” and “Holding Out for a Hero,” which were then popularized through the brand new medium of MTV. Viewers from the ‘80s probably already knew that, but this was fascinating news to me, having grown up after that time period. I’ve always really loved the title song “Footloose,” and I think everyone does. I remember one time at a roller rink that the disc jockey was just playing a bunch of contemporary songs that all sounded the same, but when I requested “Footloose,” the whole skating floor seemed to become much more animated for a truly toe-tapping song.
On the level of theme, the film features two familiar behaviors that I just don’t get. Even though I grew up exposed to some strict Baptist teachings, I’ve never understood how some Christians can write off an entire genre of music as inherently sinful. By all means, they can take issue with individual songs and lyrics (I do that), but a specific type of music isn’t necessarily evil just because it’s unfamiliar. On the other hand, it’s also hard to comprehend the actions of Ren’s girlfriend Ariel (Lori Singer), who is somehow more susceptible to poor decisions because she’s the preacher’s daughter. I can understand youthful rebellion, but she’s practically suicidal in her apparent attempts to prove she’s a hard-core party girl.
While they are bewildering to me, both of these aspects are true to life and serve to balance each other in the film. Whereas Reverend Shaw has some justifiable concerns about the youth in his town, fueled by past grief, even he recognizes when that concern trends too far into bigotry and censorship. Likewise, Bacon as Ren McCormack just wants to have a good time, but he rescues Ariel from her destructive spiral by finding common ground with her father. Instead of opting for a “we’re right, they’re wrong” approach, the film’s greatest non-musical moment comes in the town council meeting, where Ren defends the tradition of dancing with Biblical quotes. Based on Ecclesiastes 3, the film’s ultimate lesson is that there is “a time to mourn and a time to dance.” While that verse shouldn’t be used to explain away any unsavory activity, it provides the balance that the film needs. Indeed there is a time to dance, particularly when the title song comes on.
Best line: (Ren, to new friend Willard) “You like Men at Work?”
(Willard) “Which man?”
(Ren) “Men at Work.”
(Willard) “Well, where do they work?”
(Ren) “No, they don’t. They’re a music group.”
(Willard) “Well, what do they call themselves?”
(Ren) “Oh, no! What about the Police?”
(Willard) “What about ’em?”
(Ren) “You ever heard them?”
(Willard) “No, but I seen them.”
(Ren) “Where, in concert?”
(Willard) “No, behind you.”
© 2015 S. G. Liput
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