Anyway, Footloose. It's a rather odd tale; set ostensibly in the present day (well, the eighties), it tells the timeless story of a bible belt town in which public music and dancing have been banned. Upholding the moral values of the town are the hellfire preacher Rev. Shaw Moore (John Lithgow); undermining them all is his wayward teenage daughter Ariel (Lori Singer). 'Wayward' as in practically heading for a breakdown. The town is all shook up when the new kid from the city rocks up- Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon). He's a sort of James Dean-type figure and even though the high school kids seem oddly unwilling to accept his idea of a school prom, Ren fights for the right to party.
It goes without saying that some things here don't make any sense. The death which sparked off the law seems to have happened about six or seven years ago; a long time ago but still remembered by the town's teenagers. The teenagers don't really comment at all on the impact of the death; they simply object to Ren because he's an outsider rather than out of any loyalty to someone who in a small town would have been well-known. Also, everybody seems to have lost the ability to dance, and they sit around like lemons as if dancing was an alien concept from before their time. I suppose the town could be one of those places that is just stuck in the past but it would make a lot more sense if the film was set around the time when rock and roll became popular. Why anyone would think that any of the music in this film would tempt the young ones towards fornication and the devil is beyond me.
But as proposterous as the film is, you can't help but care. Even the relatively unsympathetic Ariel manages to come across as simply a broken girl who quite reasonably wants to escape her small town and their small town mentality. Lithgow is brilliant as Shaw, who is so caught up in the need to save the town from the wickedness of fornication that he doesn't recognise that the sexlessness of his marriage is driving an emotional wedge between him and his quietly suffering wife (Dianne Wiest, whose performance is more appreciated on a rewatch). And, though it feels terribly wrong, I have a bit of a crush on Kevin Bacon in this film. He manages to make Ren cool and decent, and whilst that isn't him throwing himself spectacularly around a factory, he does show off some moves and a bit of a rhythm. I can't pin down the exact appeal but Bacon is strangely appealing here.
Footloose's best weapon is its banging soundtrack. 'Holding Out For A Hero', whilst not a favourite song of mine, works really well in the tractor race scene (well, what else are they going to do with no music and all that book burning?). The title song is just a classic, as is the finale song 'I'm Free (Heaven Helps The Man)'. And 'Never' is pretty darn catchy. Even the obligatory slowies such as 'Waiting For A Girl Like You' work. 'Almost Paradise' is a bit dreary but it's nothing compared to the dreariness of the Flashdance slowies. Really, musicals aside, I can't think of a soundtrack to beat it. Only the presence of another person in the cinema, which was empty except for them, my housemate and me, stopped me from dancing like a mad person around the cinema.
Despite the bizarre storyline, it has a charm that wins you over and some great performances. You almost forget how good Kevin Bacon is in a role that had a lot going against it (though not as much as the reformed paedophile he plays in The Woodsman). There are popular eighties films that deserve to be banished into the eighties. Footloose doesn't.