Judge Lacey Worrell is remaining cagey on the subject of whether she has ever cut footloose, but she will admit to having kicked off her Sunday shoes.
Facts of the Case
Teenaged Ren (Kevin Bacon, Diner) moves with his single mom into the small town of Bomont, discovers that the teens in the town are not allowed to dance—ever—and immediately begins to shake things up. He acquires friends and enemies as he goes on a quest to change the law and in the process win the heart of the preacher's free-spirited daughter, Ariel (Lori Singer, Fame).
Footloose is based on a true story; the fictional Bomont is modeled on the small town of Elmore City, Oklahoma, a place where dancing was outlawed for close to 100 years until a group of high school kids got the law overturned and held a dance. The film spawned six Top 40 singles, and its soundtrack was just as popular as the movie.
Footloose has all the elements that make a movie successful: a lead character fighting for acceptance against all odds, a fledgling love story, teens yearning for independence…all set to music. The first ten minutes firmly establish Ren as an outsider, the town of Bomont as oppressive and judgmental, and Ariel as a loose cannon. What saves Footloose from becoming just another silly teen movie is the presence of John Lithgow (Terms of Endearment) and Dianne Wiest (The Birdcage) as Ariel's parents. Their interaction with one another and the pain they feel at letting go of their wild teenage daughter give the production gravity and seriousness.
As Ren, Kevin Bacon has an edgy sexiness that remains unique but was even more so when one takes into account that pretty boys like Rob Lowe dominated mid-'80s teen cinema. Sarah Jessica Parker fans will enjoy seeing her in one of her earlier roles, even though I'm still partial to her work with a young Helen Hunt in 1985's Girls Just Want to Have Fun, another film about kids who just have to dance. For those of you who watched every obscure '80s film out there and actually remember the movie Kidco, look closely for actress Elizabeth Gorcey as Ariel's friend Mary Jo; Gorcey played the oldest sister in Kidco and is interviewed in one of the featurettes. Deniece Williams, who sang the über-popular "Let's Hear It for the Boy," also sang the theme song to Family Ties with Johnny Mathis.
A special edition would not be a special edition without some extra features, and this release of Footloose does not disappoint. Fans of the film will be thrilled with the three included featurettes, which total close to 45 minutes in length. One of the hallmarks of a great DVD release is the inclusion of present-day cast and crew interviews; it gives viewers a unique sense of perspective to hear about the filming process…and the film's unexpected impact…years after it happened.
The featurettes comprise the two-part "Footloose: A Modern Musical" and a special segment on the music of the film, which was just as important to the mood of Footloose as the script. The fact that residents of Elmore City are included in the featurettes to testify to what living without dancing was really like shows that the producers went the extra mile in making this release as comprehensive as possible.
Part One of the featurette is a discussion of the casting and production of the film, and while it provides a great amount of detail about the casting process, any mention of Sarah Jessica Parker, undoubtedly the most successful of the film's alumnae, is conspicuously avoided. Parker fans will be heartened, however, by the fact that the producer/writer commentary pays her sufficient reverence, not to mention that it is revealed that Parker's role was originally slated for actress Tracy Nelson (The Father Dowling Mysteries).
Part Two focuses on costuming, choreography, and the complicated gymnastics training Bacon endured for the role of Ren, even though it is well known that a body double was used for the trickier shots, à la Flashdance.
The music segment is also a worthy effort, for it features interviews with Kenny Loggins (the king of '80s soundtracks), former Van Halen frontman Sammy Haggar, who helped Footloose to achieve a rock-and-roll edge, and even Mike Reno of Loverboy, who sang the love theme with Heart's Ann Wilson. MTV aficionados will be interested to hear that their favorite music channel, which was in its infancy when Footloose debuted, had a direct effect on the success of the film, turning Bacon into an idol before the film even premiered, a phenomenon which back then was unheard of.
All this is in contrast to the recent so-called special edition of Sleepless in Seattle, which had almost nothing to offer except for a very dated featurette with no involvement of the principals. There should be specific criteria for use of the phrase "special edition," because many a DVD consumer has been fooled into wasting his money on a hastily thrown together special edition that isn't so special, after all. I'm pleased to report that Footloose does not fall into this category.
Footloose looks dated because of the clothing and the fact that the picture color appears to be washed out and faded. The sound quality is adequate but could be better, considering the importance of music to this film.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I have wanted to say this for 20 years. I have never bought the final dance scene. How is it that these kids, who have never been allowed to dance, can suddenly do all the combo break-dancing and disco moves? The synchronized pseudo-clog dancing I can understand, considering that was probably okay with their parents—because let's face it, furious clogging is not exactly known for making people want to drink and have sex. The over-choreographed moments of the final scene, however, are too much of stretch. There. Twenty years of pent-up frustration and disbelief alleviated in one paragraph. I feel so much better now.
Footloose has held up remarkably well over the years. If present-day teens can get past the clothing and the hairstyles, they will enjoy it because this movie contains a classic theme: kids wanting to do something their parents don't want them to do. Coupled with the fact that there is absolutely no doubt about who will win the battle to dance, this release of Footloose is a winner for original fans and those who have yet to be introduced to its charms.
Oh, go buy it already. You know you want to.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Actor Kevin Bacon
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