Somehow, I’ve never seen the original Footloose before. I did catch the remake a few months back and found it mildly awful. I figured the iconic original would impress me more.
But only by a small margin.
I cannot figure out why this movie has iconic status, much less be considered a Teen Anthem. It boasts an extremely thin plot and cardboard characters.
The only emotional stakes belonged with the Ariel and her father…but I frankly thought Ariel was insane. I’m pretty sure she tried to kill herself twice for our viewing pleasure. Were we supposed to identify with her? I’ve done crazy stuff in my time, but nothing like standing between two cars barreling down the highway in the face of an oncoming Mac truck. When that girl took a lead pipe to her boyfriend’s ride I found it needlessly destructive. Yes, he should not have hit her, but she hit him first. I really don’t know where to go with this, but apparently casual violence is…hmm. I don’t know how to even finish that sentence.
Remember, the big climax in Footloose is Kevin Bacon and his friend brawling outside the prom. Yay?
The good: John Lithgow was amazing, and he elevates an otherwise dull film. The directors could have taken the easy way out and made him a one note bad dad. His character certainly pounds that pulpit, and he has trouble with one-on-one relationships. But he’s also beloved in the community and takes his heartfelt service to the town seriously. Even the small children adore him (I loved when he teased the little ones in the church kitchen about their milk and cookies — see? Small moments matter). He also stops wacko community members from burning library books. As the town’s preacher, he gives of himself freely, and from a place of true belief, instead of chasing self-aggrandization. I’d hate sitting through his fire-and-brimstone sermons in person, but the actor makes his supporting role sympathetic and wonderfully layered.
Lithgow alone gives me a reason give this film a solid C instead of a C-. It’s supremely average. I guess this is damning it with faint praise.
And…Kevin Bacon? Again, I don’t know how to say this, because the man has a lot of good roles in his filmography. But here he’s inscrutable. He reacts, but doesn’t act. There’s only one scene where his character has agency, and that’s his big speech to the town council. They could have gone from there and straight to the prom, and we could call in a night. End scene.
To wrap this up before I whinge some more, I’ve recently rewatched a ton of classic movies from the 70s and 80s, and most of them stand up beautifully with time: films like Jaws, Rocky, Close Encounters, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…even other early ‘dance’ movies made me care about the characters. Take Dirty Dancing, Grease, Staying Alive, or White Nights — you CARE. Hell, Flashdance was a good ride.
By the end of Footloose, I figured out the problem: there are no genuine emotional beats, no real stakes that matter. The dance should have been a backdrop to the meat of the story. This movie was like a bread sandwich — two slices of plain white Wonderbread with nothing inside.
I made other notes while watching Footloose, but it’s not worth analyzing this further. Someone, if you love this movie, please tell me why. I’m open to correction, because I feel like I must be missing something.
Movie Grade: C
PS: The 80s pop soundtrack is great. I had fond feelings for every song. I think I’ll write about that next time and link to it from here.
Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)