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PARAMOUNT

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Herbert Ross
Cast:
Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Chris Penn, Sarah Jessica Parker
Writing Credits:
Dean Pitchford

Tagline:
He's a big-city kid in a small town. They said he'd never win. He knew he had to.

Synopsis:
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."

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$80.000 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 107 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 9/28/2004

Bonus:
• 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
• Trailer


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Footloose: Special Collector's Edition (1984)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 17, 2004)

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 in the last 20 years, 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 the kids. However, he makes 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 20 years ago, but does Footloose hold up well? 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, this 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 DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Footloose appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. An erratic presentation, the movie showed its age with a disappointingly problematic transfer.

Sharpness varied. The movie usually looked acceptably detailed but rarely much more than that. Not too many scenes looked really ill-defined, but few came across as particularly distinctive, as most of Footloose was acceptably concise and no more. Jagged edges caused no concerns, but I saw a little shimmering and light edge enhancement.

Colors seemed erratic. They displayed the usual Eighties murkiness much of the time, but they also occasionally looked nicely vibrant and distinct. For the most part, the hues came across as somewhat messy, though the daytime exterior shots looked bright and lively. Black levels tended to appear somewhat inky, while shadow detail was a little too dense much of the time. Interiors seemed fairly flat and muddy.

I could chalk up most of the prior concerns to the general look that affected many Eighties movies. Unfortunately, the transfer also came with many source defects. Grain became awfully heavy at times, and I also noticed quite a few examples of specks, grit, marks, dust and debris. Few scenes escaped these problems, and they dragged the transfer down with them. A few shots looked shockingly bad, such as one wide look at the tractors in the “Chicken” scene or the image of Willard as he blew up party balloons; they flitted by fast but appeared simply horrible, and occasional other bits followed suit. Some parts of Footloose looked pretty good, but enough of it came across as drab and dingy to earn it an overall grade of “C”.

Happily, the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack of Footloose 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 20-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 very clean highs as well as taut, warm lows. Music DVDs rarely reproduce pop tunes this well, so to hear such crystal-clear songs in a movie impressed me. 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.

For extras, Footloose 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 new documentary called Footloose: A Modern Musical. Presented in two parts, this runs 30 minutes and two seconds 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, the DVD finishes with 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.

A fluffy combination of movie musical and social commentary, Footloose doesn’t hold up well after 20 years. The flick suffers from a lack of flair and excitement, as it mostly presents dull characters and predictable situations. The DVD offers disappointingly flawed picture quality but compensates somewhat with surprisingly involving and clear audio plus some nice extras highlighted by one absolutely stellar audio commentary. With an exceptionally low list price of about $15, this package offers more than enough to make it worthwhile for Footloose fans, but they should expect some disappointment due to the drab visual transfer.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5789 Stars Number of Votes: 19
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