Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Chris Penn, Sarah Jessica Parker
He's a big-city kid in a small town. They said he'd never win. He knew he had to.
Footloose jumps with spirit, dazzling dance numbers and an electrifying musical score. It portrays the timeless struggle between innocent pleasure and rigid morality, when city-boy Ren McCormick (Kevin Bacon) finds himself in an uptight Midwestern town where dancing has been banned. Ren revolts with best friend Willard (Chris Penn) and the minister's daughter (Lori Singer). Featires a treasury of Top 10 songs - Kenny Loggins' "Footloose," Shalamar's "Dancing In the Sheets," Deniece Williams' "Let's Hear It For The Boy," Bonnie Tyler’s "Holding Out For A Hero," and the Footloose love theme, "Almost Paradise."
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 6.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Runtime: 107 min.
Release Date: 9/27/2011
• Audio Commentary with Actor Kevin Bacon
• Audio Commentary with Producer Craig Zadan and Writer Dean Pitchford
• “Footloose: A Modern Musical” Documentary
• “Footloose: Songs That Tell a Story” Featurette
• “Let’s Dance! Kevin Bacon on Footloose” Featurette
• “From Bomont to the Big Apple: An Interview with Sarah Jessica Parker” Featurette
• “Remembering Willard” Featurette
• Kevin Bacon’s Screen Test and Kevin Bacon’s Costume Montage
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Footloose [Blu-Ray] (1984)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 28, 2012)
After six years in the business, Kevin Bacon became an “overnight sensation” with his star-making turn in 1984’s Footloose. Despite plenty of fine work since then, Footloose seems destined to remain Bacon’s obituary credit. Just like John Travolta and another dance-oriented flick, this is the one that will probably always be Bacon’s biggest claim to fame.
Fire and brimstone Reverend Shaw Moore (John Lithgow) acts as the pastor of the main church in the tiny midwestern burg of Bomont. He rails against the evils of rock music and other modern “sins”. Into this setting steps transplanted Chicago high school boy Ren MacCormack (Bacon) along with his mother Ethel (Frances Lee McCain), both of whom come to live with her sister’s (Lynne Marta) family. They meet Moore’s wife Vi (Dianne Wiest) and daughter Ariel (Lori Singer).
Despite - or perhaps because of - her father’s stern ways, Ariel becomes a real wild child, as she demonstrates when she pulls a stunt on the highway. She climbs out of one moving vehicle onto another and boldly straddles the pair while traveling at high speeds.
In the meantime, Ren and Ethel get to know their neighbors, and they see the depths of their conservatism when the local parents discuss books they want to ban. We see their thoughts in action when Ariel risks parental retribution as she plays a pop music tape and dances at the local drive-in burger joint. The Reverend shuts down this impromptu shindig and quietly lets Ariel know of his dissatisfaction.
As he blasts the cheese metal of Quiet Riot from his VW Bug, Ren encounters chilly stares from his new classmates on his first day at the local high school and he also runs afoul of some kids. However, he earns a friend of country boy Willard (Chris Penn) when he doesn’t back down from a challenge, and he also tries to make some inroads with the sexy Ariel.
As Ren gets to know the other kids better, he learns of the local ban on dancing. After a fatal accident a few years earlier, the elders made bopping illegal and obviously frowned on other related activities. Ren gets an even stronger message when the cops pull him over simply for playing his Quiet Riot tape. (Can’t blame them for that - crap metal should be illegal!)
Ren angers Ariel’s boyfriend Chuck (Jim Youngs), who challenges him to a game of “Chicken” with dueling tractors. Mainly because his shoelace gets stuck to the pedal, Ren wins this contest, and that apparently makes him the new hot commodity to Ariel, who enlists her friend Rusty (Sarah Jessica Parker) to scout out the city boy. Ren remains disliked by many others, however, and continues to encounter antagonism from all sorts of locals. The rest of the film follows Ren’s attempts to deal with all his opposition, get to know Ariel, and also maintain his individuality. This culminates in Ren’s decision to flout authority and hold a dance in town.
Since I was 17 when Footloose hit, I guess I was part of its prime demographic, though it always seemed much more popular with the girls in high school. Footloose didn’t scream “chick flick” and it maintained pretty good appeal across gender lines, but I maintain a general impression that it made most of its money from suburban teen girls who swooned for the quirkily handsome Bacon.
All of that was fine and dandy back then, but does Footloose hold up well after so many years? No, I can’t say that it does. Mainly a cotton candy confection that aspires to social relevance, the end result feels badly dated and like little more than just another teen movie.
It does become inevitable for a film like this to come across as a product of its time, for it features too much then-current material to rise above those elements. Surprisingly, it’s not the fashions, hairstyles or even music that strongly dates Footloose. Sure, those don’t look modern, and some of the songs are laughable, but heck, they sounded crummy to me back in the day; the tunes of Footloose were always low-grade pop cheese.
The aspects of Footloose that most mark it as a product of the mid-Eighties revolve around its philosophy and politics. The ongoing debate over obscenity in music was at a high back then. In fact, only a couple of months after the opening of Footloose, Prince would release Purple Rain. Among other works, its infamous song “Darling Nikki” would soon inspire Tipper Gore to push for warnings on albums, and the atmosphere of Footloose reflects that aura. It features a community that takes even more restrictive measures, and it wants to provide salient commentary on that faction.
It doesn’t. Footloose pays lip service to the free speech elements but it clearly doesn’t really care. All it wants to do is tell a trite boy meets girl story and toss out as many bad pop songs as possible.
In that regard, it succeeds well. If you like cheesy pop numbers, stiff characters and dull situations, then Footloose flies. I can’t say they do anything for me, though, and unlike flicks such as Saturday Night Fever or Grease, the production numbers fail to prosper. Ironically, a lot of that stems from the realism of the segments. All the actors who dance do so in ways that capture the skills of real young adults, so we don’t get the sparks Travolta threw off in the earlier hits.
While I normally dig realism, here that trend undermines Footloose because it simply makes the dancing scenes boring. I don’t want to slam Bacon because I like him as an actor, but as a dancer, he’s not exactly Travolta - or even Christopher Walken. He hoofs passably through the dance segments and that’s about it, and no one else manages to excel either. Even the use of doubles to show more dynamic moves doesn’t work. Sure, the presence of the amateurs makes the sequences more believable, but it leaves them without spark or panache. We never get caught up in the characters’ joy, which just leaves us with leaden dance scenes.
Footloose boasts a surprisingly qualified cast, as in addition to Bacon, we find notables such as Lithgow, Parker, Penn, and double Oscar-winner Wiest. Unfortunately, the simplistic script hamstrings all of them. It doesn’t leave them much room to create intriguing or distinctive characters, though I will admit it makes the Reverend more three-dimensional than anticipated; he doesn’t come across as the predictable ultra-conservative I expected.
Perhaps I’ve come down too hard on Footloose, as even with its sociological and political overtones, it remains a light romp at heart. I’d feel compelled to go easier on it if it succeeded in that spirit. Since the movie mostly offers a dull and plodding piece, however, I can’t say much positive for it.
Plagiarism footnote: 1984 was a bad year for originality in movie themes. Lots of people know that the title tune from Ghostbusters baldly ripped off Huey Lewis’ “I Want a New Drug”, but I think “Footloose” borrows very liberally from the James Gang’s 1970 hit “Funk #49”. Intentional? Probably not, but the two songs sound an awful lot a like, so much so that some connection – whether conscious or not – seems very likely.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+
Footloose appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This wasn’t a great presentation, but it looked reasonably good.
Overall sharpness was pretty positive. The movie occasionally seemed a bit soft, a factor exacerbated by some mild edge haloes. Nonetheless, it usually displayed reasonable to good definition. I noticed no issues with jaggies or shimmering, but the transfer did come with moderate noise reduction; that could give it a bit of a flat, waxy look at times. As for source flaws, I noticed occasional specks, and the movie could be a little wobbly.
Colors were fairly positive, especially given the usual “80s murkiness”. Though the hues didn’t pop, they came across as full and rich much of the time. Blacks were a little inky but usually showed nice enough denseness, and shadows showed decent delineation. Nothing here excelled, but this was usually an appealing presentation.
As for the DTS-HD MA 6.1 soundtrack of Footloose, it seemed very positive. Most of the credit went to the portrayal of the flick’s pop tunes. These presented great delineation across the soundscape, with surprisingly active material in the surrounds. Check out the opening credits’ use of the title tune to get a sense of what I mean. Most of the number stayed in the front, but unique elements expanded to the rear in a very satisfying and fun way. Other pop songs followed suit and provided a tasteful and dynamic depiction of the music.
Non-musical elements worked fine for a nearly 30-year-old flick but didn’t succeed to the same degree. Effects spread nicely across the front channels, though they often came across as somewhat too heavily weighted toward one speaker or another. They meshed decently well but needed a little more naturalism to movement and integration. Still, they added a feeling of atmosphere to the piece and occasionally kicked it into higher gear such as during scenes with trains as well as the tractor duel.
Audio quality varied but usually seemed positive. Dialogue occasionally represented the weak link. Most of the speech was acceptably concise and distinctive, but more than a little edginess interfered, and many lines seemed a bit stiff. Effects could also come across as somewhat lifeless, but they usually appeared pretty accurate, and the louder elements presented surprising depth. For example, the train roared to life in a manner much more satisfying than I anticipated.
Where the audio of Footloose really excelled connected to its music once again. Most of the songs sounded absolutely excellent. The only minor exceptions came from logical circumstances like the tunes heard in bars; those were intended to resemble source music, so I wouldn’t expect the same quality heard in the pop tunes dubbed on top of other action in the same manner as score.
As for those, they sparkled and shined. They presented clean highs as well as taut, warm lows. Due to the dynamic use of music in the various speakers and high quality of the songs, I almost gave the audio of Footloose an “A-“. I thought the track suffered from a few too many flaws to merit that high a mark, mainly because of the moderately edgy speech. Nonetheless, color me impressed with this very solid soundtrack. It should prove a revelation for fans.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the Special Collector’s Edition DVD from 2004? The audio was a bit peppier, but the visuals showed the more obvious improvements. The 2004 DVD was a mess, with iffy definition and lots of print flaws. The Blu-ray came with its own sins, mainly due to the edge haloes and the noise reduction, so it’s not a perfect product. Nonetheless, it’s a definite step up from the 2004 DVD.
The Blu-ray replicates all of the 2004 DVD’s extras and adds some new ones. The set starts with two separate audio commentaries. In the first, we hear from actor Kevin Bacon, who offers a running, screen-specific discussion. He goes into his lack of dance experience, the atmosphere on location in Utah, concerns about his casting, research and an undercover stint at a high school, various doubles, his initial resistance to his success, working with the others, and many notes about the film’s production and legacy.
When he speaks, Bacon shows little ego and provides amusing and frank remarks about the flick. The operative phrase remains “when he speaks”, for lots of dead air mars this chat. If you can get around the many gaps, though, Bacon offers a fun look at his breakout movie.
As we head to the second commentary, we find producer Craig Zadan and writer Dean Pitchford, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. While dead air causes problems for the Bacon commentary, it doesn’t become an issue here with this chatty pair. They cover a myriad of Footloose- related subjects. We hear of the project’s origins and difficult development process, with many notes on attempts to land a director and a lead actor; it’s very interesting to learn of the guys who almost get Bacon’s part.
We also get a lot of information about the music, and the piece includes many comments on various forms of studio resistance that popped up along the way, such as Dawn Steel’s violent opposition to the casting of Bacon and others’ insistence that the flick include a rap song. The men chat about how MTV greatly aided the film’s success and other elements connected to its legacy. We find some notes about problems on the set such as Bacon’s irritation when they used dancing doubles and learn of conflict with director Herbert Ross. A few tidbits about deleted scenes and alterations also appear.
The track moves briskly and always remains entertaining and informative, as it offers a lot of great information. The guys also don’t pull many punches, so we get a discussion mostly unfettered by caution and banal pleasantries. This is a terrific commentary that should really delight fans - heck, I didn’t like the movie but I loved this track.
After this we encounter a 2004 documentary called Footloose: A Modern Musical. Presented in two parts, this runs 30 minutes combined and displays movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Bacon, Zadan, Pitchford, former school principal Dean Worsham, former students Kim Kennedy and Brent Christian, Elmore City Mayor Rachel Bailey, casting director Marci Liroff, choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett, gymnastic consultant Chuck Gaylord, stunt coordinator Max Kleven, costumer Gloria Gresham, and actors John Lithgow, Chris Penn, Lori Singer, and Elizabeth Gorcey.
The program follows the project’s roots and development, a look at a real-life community that overturned a ban on dancing, landing a director and cast, approaches to the characters, rehearsals and shooting, choreography and doubles, clothes and hair, and the film’s impact. Because the two commentaries included so much excellent information, we don’t overturn much new material here. It’s good to hear from some of the other participants, and the quick overview of the real-life community adds spark, but don’t expect to learn much that you don’t already know from the commentaries. “Musical” acts as a decent synopsis, though, and is definitely worth a look if you don’t want to listen to the commentaries.
In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer, we get a featurette called Footloose: Songs That Tell a Story. It occupies 13 minutes and 54 seconds with a similar structure as “Musical”. We get information from Pitchford, Zadan, Bacon, Lithgow, editor Paul Hirsch, songwriter Tom Snow, music supervisor Becky Mancuso-Winding, and performers Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar, Mike Reno, They talk about the impact of MTV, the integration of music into the film, casting singers, specifics of the song creation, the use of dance in the flick, and music videos from the film. As with “Musical”, we get a fair amount of repeated information in “Story”. However, it offers a greater breadth of new notes than its predecessor, largely from the inclusion of the musicians. It doesn’t provide a terrific encapsulation of its subject, but it works well for the most part.
With that, we head to Blu-ray exclusives. Let’s Dance! Kevin Bacon on Footloose runs 12 minutes, 20 seconds and features the actor’s comments about his early career, getting the role in Footloose, rehearsals, research and shooting the film. Though Bacon repeats a bit of what he says in his commentary, he adds some new details and makes this a likable, brisk chat.
Next we find From Bomont to the Big Apple: An Interview with Sarah Jessica Parker. It fills seven minutes, 37 seconds with her thoughts on her acting career pre-Footloose, getting cast, her character, shooting the film, her co-stars, and the flick’s legacy. Since Parker, didn’t show up in the 2004 bonus materials, it’s good to hear from her here.
Remembering Willard offers a six-minute, 11-second memorial for actor Chris Penn. It provides remarks from Parker, Bacon, and Penn himself (from the 2004 DVD’s interviews). Though some of this acts as standard praise for the late performer, it’s not just plain happy talk; we get some interesting thoughts about the actor as well, and those moments make it worthwhile.
We finish with Kevin Bacon’s Screen Test (4:36) and Kevin Bacon’s Costume Montage (2:50). In the first, we see some of Bacon’s try-out footage while the actor discusses it; that commentary makes the segment more useful and entertaining. The second simply shows a collection of costume tests, some of which already appear in “Screen Test”. No Bacon remarks pop up here, so it’s less compelling, but it’s still a nice archival piece.
A fluffy combination of movie musical and social commentary, Footloose doesn’t hold up well after almost 30 years. The flick suffers from a lack of flair and excitement, as it mostly presents dull characters and predictable situations. The Blu-ray offers erratic but usually appealing visuals, surprisingly involving and clear audio and some nice extras highlighted by one absolutely stellar audio commentary. The Blu-ray becomes the best home video presentation of the film to date.
To rate this film visit the Special Collector's Edition of FOOTLOOSE