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Paramount Studios presents
Footloose: CE (1984)

Ren: What are you doing here?
Ariel: Watching.
Ren: I thought I was alone.
Ariel: Not in this town. There's eyes everywhere.

- Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer

Review By: David Krauss  
Published: September 27, 2004

Stars: Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, Dianne Wiest, John Lithgow
Other Stars: Christopher Penn, Sarah Jessica Parker
Director: Herbert Ross

MPAA Rating: PG for (sexual innuendo, alcohol and drug use)
Run Time: 01h:47m:06s
Release Date: September 28, 2004
UPC: 097360534146
Genre: musical


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+C+B+ A

DVD Review

Okay, I admit it. I love Footloose. I saw it at least three times during its initial theatrical run in 1984 (give me a break, I was only 21), and probably wore out the soundtrack album on my frat house turntable (yes, I said turntable). Sure, its moralistic story may be a tad overblown and its depiction of teen angst now seems pitifully tame, but back then the movie captivated me with its vigor and passion. With the exception of Flashdance (the female cousin to Footloose), the Hollywood musical was a forgotten art form in the mid-1980s, yet director Herbert Ross brashly reinvented it. He tossed out the 72-piece orchestras and stagy soliloquies of yore, and instead used boom boxes and car stereos as conduits for the top 40 tunes that underscore and emphasize the plot. Audiences responded, and kids who wouldn't be caught dead watching Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly flocked to theaters to see Kevin Bacon dance to Kenny Loggins' hard-rockin' title song.

Twenty years later, Footloose still possesses an infectious youthful spirit, and takes us old folks back to more carefree days when life seemed like an endless empty canvas just waiting to be marked up. Yet strangely enough, the far-fetched story of a hyper-religious community that bans public dancing in the wake of a teen tragedy seems more relevant today than it did two decades ago. Distorted views of family values and the strength of the religious right make such a scenario downright plausible in our current time. As producer Craig Zadan (Chicago) and writer Dean Pitchford tell us on the commentary track, communities like the fictional one portrayed in the film exist all over the country, and their young people face the same issues as Chicago transplant Ren McCormack (Bacon) when he arrives in the sleepy town of Beaumont with his newly divorced mom (Frances Lee McCain).

Ren quickly learns almost all forms of teen recreation have been outlawed, due, in part, to the cautionary preaching of the Reverend Shaw Moore (John Lithgow), who believes dancing and rock music lead to drinking, drugs, and sexual irresponsibility. At first ostracized by the cliquish student body at the local high school, Ren soon wins a few friends who share his view that music and dance are a vital form of teen expression, and should be a God-given right, not a privilege. Willard (Christopher Penn), Rusty (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Ariel (Lori Singer), Moore's rebellious daughter, help Ren in his endeavor to convince the town council (and the reverend in particular) to rescind the bogus law and allow the senior class to hold a prom. Despite intense opposition, Ren sticks to his guns, dividing town residents and causing tensions in both Beaumont and the Moore household to boil over.

Say what you will about the story, but Footloose deftly balances drama and music, packing plenty of potent confrontations in between its rapid fire soundtrack hits. Pitchford's screenplay may be riddled with clichés, but still truthfully depicts the tangled lines of communication that exist between teens and adults, and the exhausting struggle for common ground. Letting kids grow up, break away, and make their own decisions and mistakes is never easy for parents, and Footloose sensitively addresses this theme by fully developing Reverend Moore and (to a lesser extent) his wife, Vi (Dianne Wiest). Lithgow deserves substantial credit for making his character more than a one-dimensional, Bible-thumping villain, and adding a soulful maturity to Footloose that similar youth-oriented films lack.

Bacon's smooth performance turned him into a reluctant teen idol, and although his cool moves often look slightly effeminate today, it's tough to imagine anyone else playing Ren McCormack. Yes, his dance/gymnastics double could have been better disguised, but Bacon's natural sincerity makes us forgive any technical gaffes and puts us firmly in his corner throughout the film. Singer occasionally goes overboard in her wild-child portrayal, but manages to successfully embody the raging hormones and demented risk-taking of adolescence, while Penn delights with his unflinching take on a brawny, lovably brainless local-yokel. Watching Bacon teach him to dance to the strains of Deniece Williams' Let's Hear It for the Boy remains one of the film's most memorable and exhilarating sequences.

Of course, anyone who loves '80s music will revel in the songs of Footloose. Who doesn't remember (and can't sing along with) such hits as Loggins' effervescent title tune, Bonnie Tyler's hard-rocking classic Holding On for A Hero, Shalamar's R&B infused Dancing in the Sheets, and Mike Reno and Ann Wilson's harmonic love ballad Almost Paradise? Yet despite the contemporary music and themes, Footloose still shamelessly borrows from Golden Age classics. A rite of passage "chicken race" between Ren and bully Chuck Cranston (Jim Youngs) may take place on tractors, but still smacks of James Dean's Rebel Without A Cause, while Ren's can-do attitude toward mounting the senior prom makes us recall the golly-gee-whiz enthusiasm of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in their series of let's-put-on-a-show extravaganzas. Somehow, though, such familiar elements add charm to Footloose. Beneath all the cross-generational bickering and teen rebellion, a sweet innocence pervades this '80s relic, and that's what ultimately hooks us. Sure, a few cornball scenes make us cringe, but so do a lot of our own high school memories.

Twenty years ago, I identified with the struggles of Ren and his gang to achieve independence. Today, Footloose fills me with nostalgia—and you can't ask a beloved film for more. We're both aging, but we've still got plenty of kick.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: One would think a Special Collector's Edition would include a spanking new transfer bursting with clarity and color. No dice. Sadly, this looks like the same shoddy presentation that graced the first Footloose DVD, featuring heavy grain and faded hues. Some stretches appear crisp and vibrant, but contrast is weak across the board, and night scenes lack depth and richness. A generous amount of nicks and scratches also intrude, making the film look every bit its age.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Footloose is a soundtrack movie, and Paramount supplies a full-bodied DD EX track that marvelously showcases the music. The songs power across all five speakers with top-notch fidelity and crystal clarity, while subtle surround effects and healthy but well-integrated bass frequencies make the tunes sound as if they were recorded yesterday instead of two decades ago. Musically, this is a superb mix that injects new life into the film's songs, and makes us remember why the Footloose soundtrack shot to #1 on the pop album chart, displacing Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Unfortunately, dialogue sequences don't fare as well. A frustrating dullness of tone afflicts the movie's non-musical portions, with sound firmly anchored in the front channels and practically zero ambient action. Levels, too, are much lower for the dramatic scenes (so keep the remote handy for frequent volume adjustments), and noticeable distortion hampers the film's first several minutes. As a result, the track fails to meet expectations, and makes one wish Paramount lavished as much sonic attention on the drama of Footloose as it did on the music.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by actor Kevin Bacon; and producer Craig Zadan and writer Dean Pitchford
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 57M:41S

Extras Review: Paramount honors the 20th anniversary of Footloose with a fine array of supplements that will certainly please the film's rabid fans. First up is a surprisingly subdued commentary track from Kevin Bacon. Although the actor relates some entertaining anecdotes and makes several noteworthy points, he treats the film too seriously, as if it were A Few Good Men instead of a pop teen dance flick. Rarely does Bacon make fun of the film's dated elements or dish any backstage dirt, and his laid back delivery and frequent pauses lend the track a labored tone. He talks about the location shooting in Provo and Ogden, Utah, and how residents felt the production company was "doing the devil's work" by filming such a blasphemous story. He also remembers his "day of hell" as an incognito transfer student at the local high school. In addition, Bacon discusses his frustration over the dance doubling and his admiration for John Lithgow.

A second commentary, with producer Craig Zadan and writer Dean Pitchford, is far livelier and chock full of fascinating information. The two offer an in-depth look at their struggles to get the film made, and tireless efforts to convince studio brass of the project's worth. They recall Michael Cimino was initially hired to direct the film (his first job after the disastrous Heaven's Gate), Jennifer Jason Leigh was strongly considered to play Ariel, and almost every young actor in Hollywood auditioned for Ren, including Tom Cruise (who was deemed too muscular after bulking up for All the Right Moves) and Rob Lowe (who pulled his knee out during his audition and left the studio in an ambulance). Zadan endlessly gushes over Bacon ("He's the kind of person you want to have dinner with every night"), calling him "smart, clever, brilliant" (relax, Craig), and firmly stating, "The reason the movie became the phenomenon it did was because of the soul of Kevin Bacon." Pitchford (who, in addition to the screenplay, co-wrote almost all of the film's songs) examines the music and how it uniquely mirrors the characters' thoughts. He also remembers his battle with Paramount when ignorant executives demanded all the songs be replaced. ("You can't bow to the insecurities of others when making a movie," Zadan says.) The pair discusses the cutting of a controversial rap number, and how the film possesses broad appeal because it doesn't "pander to a kid audience." Both possess a genuine affection for Footloose that permeates this energetic and worthwhile track.

Three terrific featurettes follow. Footloose: A Modern Musical—Part 1 is kind of like going to your high school reunion and checking out how long lost acquaintances have aged. Kevin Bacon looks pretty much the same, but sports a scraggly goatee that makes him look like he's a member of a grunge band (oh yeah…he is). Chris Penn has packed on quite a few pounds (poor guy wasn't lucky enough to inherit brother Sean's metabolism), while Lori Singer shows up wearing what looks like a cast-off blonde wig from Cher's Believe video. All remain enthusiastic about Footloose and appreciate the film's enduring popularity. Bacon recalls how the experience literally changed his life, and how he was ill-equipped to deal with the resulting overnight attention. He also details (along with Zadan and Pitchford) the arduous process of convincing Paramount executives he was right for the role. Zadan talks about Singer's "wild spirit" and how John Lithgow gave the movie "crossover appeal," and Pitchford remembers rewriting the character of Willard to better suit Penn's personality.

The rest of the 18-minute film charts the film's genesis and production, and includes some fascinating trivia. For instance, did you know Footloose was inspired by a true story? Sure enough, a little town in Oklahoma by the name of Elmore City actually banned dancing in the late 19th century, and somehow the law remained in effect until the early 1980s when—you guessed it—a rebellious kid helped overturn it. Town residents and Elmore City's current mayor remember the incident.

Footloose: A Modern Musical—Part 2 runs 12 minutes and focuses more on the film's dancing. Choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett talks about storyboarding Ren's big warehouse solo number, while gymnastics consultant Chuck Gaylord (Mitch's brother) discusses doubling for Bacon and training the actor on the high bar. Penn sheepishly admits he, too, required intensive dance lessons just like his character, and Bacon recalls how his haircut in the film became America's hot new 'do. John Lithgow, Zadan, and Pitchford discuss the deep impact of Footloose (yes, that's right, deep impact), and how touched they've been by the emotional reaction of audiences over the years.

Footloose: Songs That Tell A Story examines the bestselling soundtrack and the novel idea of using it as a marketing tool to catapult the film to success. Lyricist Tom Snow and singers Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar, and Mike Reno share their memories of composing and recording the hit tunes during the 14-minute featurette. The impact of a brand new cable television network called MTV and how it helped hype Footloose is also addressed.

The movie's original theatrical trailer rounds out the special supplements.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

Cut loose, kick off your Sunday shoes, and relive the ebullience of Footloose. Twenty years have surely dated portions of this flashy pop musical, but the earnest performances and hit-filled '80s soundtrack keep it lively and winning. Paramount drops the ball on the transfer, but absorbing extras and solid audio make this collector's edition well worth owning.

 


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