A city teenager moves to a small town where rock music and dancing have been banned, and his rebellious spirit shakes up the populace. (from IMDb)
It's kind of wild when you take the time to revisit a movie from your childhood to watch it with fresh eyes at a completely different point in your life. As an adult, a movie like Footloose lands completely different than when seeing it as a young kid. With its 40th anniversary this year, Footloose gets its 4K UHD debut, revitalizing the movie for a new generation. In 1984's Footloose, Kevin Bacon stars as teenager Ren McCormack, who moves from a big city to the small town of Bomont. The town is so small in fact, that everyone knows each other and their personal lives, with Rev. Shaw Moore serving as the town's morality guide. A tragedy in the town years earlier led to the outlawing of all rock music and dancing, with Rev. Moore preaching these to be catalysts for sinful acts. Meanwhile, his teenage daughter Ariel rails against the town's - and her father's - authority, living wild and recklessly. There ends up being quite a bit to unpack in this movie, thematically, and seeing this movie again now, as a Christian adult - and parent of a young teen, I came away from my viewing with a lot of thoughts and feelings about what Footloose had to say.
First of all, I was surprised to learn that the story of Footloose was actually loosely based on real events in a small town in 1978, where dancing had also been outlawed. Seeing the movie as a little kid, much of the plot went over my head. I always thought the movie had painted Rev. Moore as a completely misguided villain, so I was surprised to find that to not be the case during my rewatch. Ren's presence in Bomont does shake things up considerably, but he's less the troublemaker the town thinks he is and more the victim of just being an outsider and fish out of water. Then you have Ariel who nearly kills herself more than once doing reckless attention-getting stunts, like standing in front of an oncoming train and screaming until Ren tackles her to safety. She also clearly has a boyfriend - with whom she even sleeps with - but is so intrigued by Ren that she pretty much chases him for much of the movie. The only way the story can tilt the viewers in her favor in the midst of her disloyalty to Chuck, is when he gets physically abusive in response to her unfaithfulness to him. She's a strangely inconsistent character, too, because following a rebellious move to play rock music at a hot teenage hangout spot, she seems to genuinely apologize to her pastor father for her mistake, but then seems to go out of her way to defy him in everything else she does. If director Herbert Ross was hoping Ariel would be an infectiously likeable character, he failed miserably.
It's interesting to look at the story and see both Ren's viewpoint and Rev. Moore's and understand both. And while it's understandable that a small town could be affected strongly enough by loss to want to over protect its inhabitants - especially the youth, the over-sheltering only pushes the kids to rebel. As Moore's wife tells Shaw later in the movie, it doesn't take dancing to get teenagers riled up sexually. She mentions that even just looking into each other's eyes was once enough for them. Ren is also never shown to be using dance as anything other than a means of expression or release of frustration. Ariel also eventually leads Ren to passages in the Bible where David expressed his praise through dance and how the scriptures often encouraged dancing (Although one could argue the dancing was intended to glorify God, which was never any of the teens' intent in the film, but I digress). And while the movie opens with Rev. Moore delivering a fire-and-brimstone message to the people of Bomont, the story progresses in a way to show that Moore just really cares for the townspeople and wants the best for them. All the while, Ariel seems determined to run the opposite way from her father's guidance and teachings.
As a movie, Footloose feels exceptionally dated. And since it's a movie about extreme circumstances in a small town, there isn't a lot about it that's specifically relatable -- other than what it's like to be a new kid in a new school, or any kind of romantic drama during our teen years. One could even make the argument that much of the plot of Footloose is corny or downright silly, but the earnest performances from the central cast do well to sell all of it.
Although Star-Lord would vehemently disagree with this opinion, I don't think Footloose holds up as the timeless 80's classic that many consider it to be. Sure, Bacon turns in a memorable performance, and the warehouse dance sequence and prom finale are surely ones to stick with you, but the bulk of the movie is kind of typical fare from the decade. The movie feels a bit like a musical, but it's mostly driven by 80's pop hits, which makes the movie more appealing to those who wouldn't normally sit down to watch an actual musical. I also think one of the biggest drawbacks to the film is how unlikeable Ariel is as a character. If she's so fickle towards those she seems to care about most, what's supposed to make us think she'll stick with Ren for the long haul?
Footloose is rated PG, but it's at the very least a PG-13 grade film content-wise. In fact, I read that they cut out some random male nudity and an "F" word to get a re-rating from its original R rating. The aforementioned male nudity is still present in some form during a conversation between Ren, Willard and the other guys while in the boys shower and locker room. As the guys chat in the foreground, we clearly see the bare butt of another student showering in the background. We then see a naked guy walk by with his genitals just barely covered by a wall in the foreground. It's fiercely unnecessary nudity that is jarring and comes out of nowhere. There's also a sequence where we see Ariel with her boyfriend Chuck in the woods on a blanket. She's buttoning up her pants and putting her boots on, while he lays there without a shirt. It's obvious what they just finished doing, and she even straddles him (while clothed) at one point while they talk. Other characters make remarks about her having been "kissed a lot," to imply she gets around, and there's a scene where she's arguing with her father and she exclaims to him that she isn't a virgin. One conversation Ren has with Willard early in their friendship has him telling him a story about meeting a girl while dancing, then basically having sex with her in the car afterwards. As Willard listens with eagerness, he asks "Really??" to which Ren admits "No." and reveals that the real story ended on the dance floor. In addition to sexual content, there's a surprising amount of profanity that runs through the course of the movie, with quite a few uses of the "S" word, "S.O.B." and an assortment of blasphemous phrases. Finally, there's quite a bit of teen violence where some of the guys bully each other and get into fights, but the worst is when Ariel's boyfriend Chuck punches and slaps her in a disturbing scene of domestic violence. Surprisingly enough, too, there aren't any immediate consequences for Chuck... until his eventual comeuppance at the end of the movie. And, as touched on earlier, Ariel risks her life in two insanely dangerous stunts, one being the aforementioned train stunt, and another where she climbs out of one car into Chuck's pickup truck while the cars are driving alongside each other, and then stands on the doors of both cars while a tractor trailer bears down on them. It's bonkers.
Again, there's quite a bit to unpack when processing 1984's Footloose. If you're already a fan of the movie, there isn't much to say, but if you've never seen it, there's a good chance what you find here will surprise you. As far as the 4K release goes, it's "good," but the grainy source footage can only get so clear, and the color may not be quite as vibrant as you might expect for the format. It's probably still the best picture quality the movie has ever had, but the question remains: is it better than the HD Blu-Ray transfer? Probably not by much. The 4K disc doesn't have any special features at all, but the set includes a digital copy and a Blu-Ray disc which includes previously-released extras.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 2/11/24)
Newly remastered, FOOTLOOSE will be available in a two-disc 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray™ set or a collectible SteelBook™ with artwork designed to look like an 80s Walkman. Both sets include access to a digital copy of the film and the Blu-ray includes the legacy bonus content detailed below:
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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