24 June 2002 | alainenglish
Silly, but lighthearted caper
"Footloose" is a fun and very lighthearted motion picture that promises a good time and delivers.
The film has a simple, if unlikely, plotline. Streetsmart but gentle teenager Ren MacCormack(Kevin Bacon) arrives from the big city with his mother in the backwater town of Bomont. Enrolling at the local high school, he is appalled to discover the town's adults have imposed a law on "public dancing" and rock music, as enforced and practiced by the local preacher(John Lithgow). Ren quickly sets about changing things, falling in love with the preacher's daughter Ariel (Lori Singer) in the process.
The story is a little unlikely yet it is perfectly suitable for the teenaged audience at which it is pitched. The script takes some time to explore its simple theme - dancing and rock music, and what they symbolise for young people. Three scenes help to lay this out. The first sees Ren dancing by himself in a barn; the town meeting where Ren presents his case to the townspeople and explains to them the meaning of the dance; and the final prom sequence in which the teens of Bomont revel in their newfound liberation.
As the leading man, Kevin Bacon carries off his role very well. Ren isn't really a macho hero revelling in coolness, he's a down-to-earth young man trying to the right thing by his peers. His romance with Lori Singer's character Ariel is formulaic but perfectly inoffensive.
The film could have perhaps done with a little more nastiness to fully contrast against Ren's earnest intentions. Even Ariel's brutish boyfriend(Jim Young) fails to inject much tension in this respect and the final fistfight between him and Ren comes across as being a bit lame.
John Lithgow's characterisation is very good but it is a little too subtle. As the town Reverend and preacher of all things pure and holy, his extreme views come across not so much as puritanical, just merely uptight. The change that eventually occurs in his attitudes is hinted at very early on. The result is that he is nowhere near is frightening or intimidating a character as he could have been. At the same time his troubled relationships with his rebellious daughter and quiet wife(Dianne Wiest) are very well written and acted. In these scenes he excels and his character's development seems very natural.
On the technical side, the film is well-shot and the gloriously Eighties soundtrack complements the proceedings very well, bringing the necessary exhuberance and bounce to the whole movie.
Whilst "Footloose" is certainly no masterpiece, it succeeds in being a lighthearted knockabout caper, and as such is a very enjoyable movie.