Dir: Herbert Ross (Funny Lady; The Sunshine Boys; The Sever-Per-Cent Solution; The Goodbye Girl; Steel Magnolias; Boys on the Side)
Can it be I got this far in my life having never seen this film? I guess I had good instincts. But now at least I know the context for that song.
Look, Footloose has its heart in the right place, I suppose. A bunch of kids rise up against their oppressive parents, assert the timeless freedom of youth and claim their own identities. We learn that overprotectiveness can be just as harmful as neglect, that part of growing up is making mistakes, and that the human spirit cannot be contained. It is a fine theme, and has been done well.
But Footloose wants to have it both ways. It wants to embody a transgressive subject matter, but still play in Peoria. So instead of sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll, we get petting, dancing, and Kenny Loggins. I mean, all the kids want to do is dance. That's their big bid against the system? And not even Dirty Dancing, but like doing the hand jive in a line, dancing tame enough to be in Grease! No doubt this is the reason for the film's lasting appeal; a generation of youngsters were able to digest it in a way a really great movie like Rebel Without A Cause eludes. Footloose makes you feel good and want to dance; Rebel challenges you and makes you want to cry. But you can't embody youthful rebellion and make an uplifiting film at the same time!
On its own terms, Footloose is OK. A surprise is a young Sarah Jessica Parker, genuine in this role in way I don't remeber seeing her elsewhere. Bacon is hunky, but the unfortunate Lori Singer is a real eyesore. When even the script is calling you out for being too thin, its time for the casters to develop a little social conscience. John Lithgow really should pick better roles; he is a better actor than most of the scripts he takes on.
The choreography is actually really solid technically, but completely out of character. These are high school kids, they want to dance to pop music, but Lynne Taylor-Corbett has them doing balletic arm swining and expressive full body twists (oh yeah, and doing Tarzan swings on a chain in an abandoned factory). This isn't West Side Story; just have the kids jump around a little, OK?
What happens when you want a safe story line that preaches generational rebellion? You get Footloose, clean and safe and wildly popular.
I've seen worse.