Review by Michael Jacobson
Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Chris Penn, Sarah
Director: Herbert Ross
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: August 5, 2008
doesn’t take long for corruption to take root, Reverend.”
how long is that, Roger? About as
long as it takes for compassion to die?”
ruled the cinema in the 1980s. There
were the barbarous clique comedies a la Heathers, and dramas with more
contemplative growing-up issues, like The Breakfast Club.
And some were just good old fashioned kick-up-your-heels fun movies.
Footloose was one of those, and one of the best.
of us as young teens got our first glimpse of Kevin Bacon in this picture.
He plays Ren McCormick, a likeable city kid forced to move to a small
town when his father leaves him and his mother.
The town is called Bomont, and it might as well be on the moon to young
Ren. It’s a place where the
unspoken leader is the town’s preacher, Reverend Shaw Moore (Lithgow), and
where a strict moral code has worked its way into the community laws.
Public dancing is forbidden.
very existence as an outsider draws interest from some and inspires fear in
others. Shaw’s daughter, Ariel
(Singer), is the stereotypical preacher’s kid; all hometown girlish goodness
on the outside, yet bucking and kicking down fences on the inside.
She warms up to Ren, and even inspires him to take on the rigid town
council in order to bring the Bomont senior class a legitimate prom.
most of the story in a nutshell. Footloose,
for me, has always been a picture about moments. There are the musical moments, of course, with an all-good
song soundtrack that was a monster hit in its day, but there are also the
surprisingly tender moments where we get a lot closer to these characters than a
movie like this ordinarily allows. The
passages of dialogue between Ren and his mother, or between Reverend Shaw and
his wife Vi (Wiest) take time to flesh out these people and explore them as
human beings with real fears, hopes, and motivations.
movie also boasts one of the decade’s most joyful sequences for me, as Ren
tries to teach best friend Willard (Penn) how to dance to the tune of Deniece
Williams’ “Let’s Hear it For the Boy” (you can’t watch it without a
smile on your face!), as well as one of the ugliest between Ariel and her
soon-to-be ex, Chuck. Nothing
enrages me like the sight of a woman being hit.
one aspect that really elevates the movie for me is the treatment of the
character of Reverend Moore. It
would have been all too easy and clichéd to create a preacher as an antagonist
and make him out a two dimensional hypocrite or a power-hungry letch.
This movie isn’t afraid to show Moore as a good man with deep emotional
scars that sometimes affect his judgment. Scenes
where he realizes what he’s wrought when the town’s people get ugly outside
the library, or when he shares quiet moments with both his daughter and Ren, or
when at the end we sense a reawakening of an old flame between he and his wife,
are eloquent and defining. John
Lithgow has created many memorable characters over the years, but I’ve always
thought Shaw Moore was one of his finest moments.
it’s the charisma of Kevin Bacon that carries the weight of most of the
picture. As Ren, he carved out the
role of a good, courageous but hesitant outsider that could have carried him
through most of his career. But,
like most good actors, he never played it safe and repeated himself.
nice to see he looks back on his work in this picture with affection.
Footloose is a film that takes what could have been standard teen
entertainment, and elevated it with the strength of its performances, music, and
memorable moments. It remains one
of the decade’s defining moments.
80s continue to be the worst time period for DVD quality, and unfortunately, Footloose
isn’t an exception. Go back a
few years to the late 70s and you can see marvelous transfers from Paramount for
the likes of Grease and Saturday Night Fever.
But this picture suffers from the same chronic 80s disorder many
other discs from the decade do. Coloring
is slightly drab, grain is frequently (though lightly) apparent, particularly in
scenes with monochromatic backgrounds, and image definition is slightly soft
throughout. I’m pleased to see
the picture in anamorphic widescreen, but apart from that, the image isn’t
much improved over my old laser disc copy.
Extremely watchable, to be sure, but not much more.
mentioned the killer soundtrack, and that’s where this 5.1 mix shines the
brightest. Every song, from Kenny
Loggins’ “Footloose” to Shalimar’s “Dancing in the Sheets” get the
benefit of an opened up surround mix, with the lower frequencies pulsating from
the .1 channel to get your feet moving. Dialogue
and other scenes are mostly even-leveled and front-stage oriented…clean and
clear with minor panning effects here and there.
Definitely a “music rules” offering…not a problem, considering how
good the tunes are!
The disc includes a bonus CD of 80s music.