Grief is confounding in that, over time, it can hypnotize and make us do some rash and terrible things. We can lash out at the ones we love most, drown ourselves in vices like food and alcohol, or even choose to watch that terrible, terrible, Oliver Stone 9/11 movie. In the case of “Footloose”, a movie more about mourning and grief than it probably intended to be, the drunk-driving death of several teenagers has caused a small town to outlaw unsupervised “Lewd” dancing.
Things kick off some time after this, when Bahstonian Ren MahCormahhhck, moves to the biahble-belt south to live with his auhnt and uncle following the death of his Mothah. Meanwhile, Ariel Shaw (Juliane Hough) and her Dad, The Reverend Shaw (Dennis Quaid), are entangled in typical father / daughter teenage drama, amplified by the fact they're still dealing with the loss in the family that prompted all the banning dancing business in the first place. Ariel is a bad girl in booty shorts, and Reverend Shaw is having trouble connecting with the young woman who barely resembles the little girl she used to be. Ren then falls in love with the preacher's daughter, fights the establishment that conveniently happens to be the preacher, and we're off to the melodrama-o-rama.
There's a couple of eye-roll-inducing booty and boobie bra shots, some of the dialog is corny, and something about a character getting in trouble for playing their music too loud on a country road seems a bit 1980's for me, then things tend to go over the top in a bad way. I'm not from the south, so I could be wrong, but, does the following happen in a given six month period to high schoolers: A school bus race around a professionally owned and operated race track where three buses are demolished and or set on fire. Two brawls where serious bodily harm could be inccured. One domestic abuse incident. A second domestic abuse incident, minutes later, with a preacher laying his pimp hand down on his recently, previously, domestically abused daughter *in a church*. Kids are crazy.
One of the more irksome things, however, is the way Director Craig Brewer creates three dimensional problems that are solved in very one dimensional ways. For example, The movie spends quite a lot of time setting up the Ren / Ariel romance in a very sweet way, with Ren refusing to make a move on Ariel until Ariel is not committed to another man. This tender moment is followed by Ariel deciding to play chicken with a freight train. What?
Then, in what has up until then been a tumultuous, but mostly abuse-free relationship, Ariel takes quite a large blunt object to her then boyfriend's truck after breaking up with him. The boyfriend then turns psycho, and not only hits Ariel, but promptly seeks out Ren to beat him up, too.
I feel a movie like this, with so much in the tank in regards to forgiveness and acceptance, would maybe, just maybe, feature some sort of maturity from a character who up until that point in the movie had just been sorta douchey, not abusey. I honestly wanted something like that moment in “Titanic” where the rich guy and Leo Dicaprio put aside their differences to help the woman they love. There is no such moment here.
Eventually there's a plot, and Ren gets all the petitions for this dance he wants to hold even giving this grand speech quoting bible verse directly to the city council. He's turned down and told he can't have a dance, even though he won the Reverend's respect.
Then the solution is to literally move one town over and have the dance there. So while everyone dances happily ever after, in reality, absolutely zero resolution is given to the raised questions of freedom of expression, and whether lawmakers use personal grief to make rash choices.
This is such a terrible shame because the movie is so very close to being very splendid. Everything is pretty, the dancing is great and anything involving the spunky sidekick Willie is gold. Director Craig Brewer proves he's the master of the non-musical musical, utilizing some retro sound tracks for nostalgia, and providing varied styles of dancing and music to keep everyone entertained. There's hip hop, there's country western, there's 80s, and “Lets Here It For The Boys” makes an appearance in a musical sequence so charming I'd say it was almost worth the price of admission alone.
On the surface, I can't say "Footloose" is a great time, because it's about 20 minutes too long and a lot of plot points seem to happen independently of each other, for example all the “Willie learns to dance” scenes in a row, then all the “Ren gets in trouble with the law” scenes in a row, then all the Ariel gets beat up scenes in a row, and sadly no scenes with Kevin Bacon at all.
What's worse is that, when you think about it for a second, "Footloose" is letting young people know violence solves problems, old people in power will almost never listen, if you can't talk it out, punch it out, and pray to God your is ass round enough to shake.