Original release: February 17th, 1984
Running time: 107 minutes
Director: Herbert Ross
Writer: Dean Pitchford
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, Dianne Wiest, John Lithgow, Chris Penn, Sarah Jessica Parker
I always look back on the 80s with such fond memories. Not only was it the decade that gave us great dance movies such as Flashdance and Dirty Dancing, but it also gave us Footloose. Admittedly though, I hadn’t actually seen the film in its entirety until recently, but its theme song by Kenny Loggins was something I knew really well. I recall many school mornings hopping into my big brother’s car and this would always be one of the songs playing in the tape deck. As it blared through the speakers, we’d be singing along while I tapped my feet and drummed my hands on the dashboard. Footloose was the kind of song to get me ready for anything the day could bring – even the consequences for doing a lame-ass job on my homework the night before – by the time I arrived at school I usually felt like a champion.
Fast forward to 28 years later and feeling like a champion in the mornings takes a lot more effort than it did when I was 6 years old. After starting an intensive workout program a few weeks ago I compiled a playlist of 80s anthems I’d grown up with and added them to my iPod. Among them was Footloose and as I reconnected with the song after not hearing it for so many years I realised it was also time to finally see the film through to the end.
Its story centres on Ren (Kevin Bacon), who’s just moved to the small town of Bomont with his mother to live with his aunt and uncle. However, Bomont is unlike other towns – the city council has banned dancing, music and non-religious literature after some kids got killed in a car wreck a few years back. These fears are driven into the minds of the townspeople by the strict Reverend Shaw (John Lithgow), the authority figure in the town. At school Ren makes friends with a boy called Willard (Chris Penn), but naturally it’s Ariel (Lori Singer) who really catches his attention. She’s likes music, has been kissed a lot and there’s something about her which makes her seem exciting. It comes as no surprise then to learn she’s the Reverend’s daughter and that she goes out with Chuck (Jim Youngs), a tough guy and all-round jerk at school.
When Ren crosses Chuck path he ends up being challenged to a game of chicken with tractors. Although he’s never ridden one before, Ren agrees to the game and ends up being the accidental victor when his shoelace gets caught on the accelerator pedal, preventing him from jumping out first. It helps seal his acceptance by the other kids though.
With the end of senior year coming up, the kids desperately want to have a prom, but the ban on music and dancing means it’s likely this won’t happen. This leads to Ren standing before the city council and reading out passages from the Bible that support their right to dance, have music and celebrate. Gradually, the Reverend starts to realise he can’t enforce his views on the whole town, especially as his own daughter is the first one to always break the rules he imposes – and she tells him so during a fight.
Eventually the town of Bomont agrees to let its young folk have their prom and the reverend and his wife, Vi (Dianne Wiest), begin to change their long-held views and even share a dance together.
Footloose, as a film about the joys of music and dancing, moves nicely along despite a few slow moments, and its plot never gets too heavy with the religious side of things. Kevin Bacon is fantastic in this early role. As the new kid on the block Ren’s got a lot to prove and he’s convincing as the cocky and footloose teenager who believes a little bit of dancing will be more helpful to the kids than any of the Reverend’s sermons.
The scenes with him teaching Willard to dance are amusing and add some comic elements to a story that might’ve otherwise been a bit too serious. Footloose also features some fantastic songs I remember from that time, like Let’s Hear It for the Boy by Deniece Williams, Holding Out for a Hero by Bonnie Tyler, Dancing In the Sheets by Shalamar and Waiting for a Girl Like You by Foreigner. It was really great to hear them again, and of course I added them to my playlist.
It’s an enjoyable film with an uplifting finale that even the Reverend and his wife share in, and I’m glad to tick it off my list of 80s dance films I felt I needed to finally see.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .