Bottom Line: Cool and fun, despite numerous flaws.
“Wait, wait, wait. Jump back. Are you kidding me? Dancing is against the law? –Kenny Wormald as Ren
Directed by: Craig Brewer
Starring: Andie MacDowell, Dennis Quaid, Julianne Hough, Kenny Wormald, Ziah Colon
FOOTLOOSE is one of the few musical adaptations that I waited for with bated breath. Even though I hardly remember the 1984 film in which its upbeat universe began (I may have not seen that version in its entirety, for that matter), and I have not seen a single performance of the stage musical, the soundtrack is one of the best I’ve ever heard from stage and film alike. It’s telling, however, to say that when one is sucked into the hype that prefaces a film’s release, very high expectations are held. And when very high expectations are held, disappointment is quite probable.
Set in the small town of Bomont, Georgia, FOOTLOOSE tells the tale of a high school girl named Ariel (Julianne Hough). Her father (Dennis Quaid) is a preacher at their local church, and he is trying to lead his daughter’s life in a very cautious manner. It happens that one day, Ariel’s brother is killed in a car accident after a night of dancing and partying, and her father immediately proposes a bill that no teen shall be out after 10:00 PM, nor shall he or she be drinking, smoking, using other drugs, or–most pertinently–dancing. Three years later, that law is well into effect, and a high school boy named Ren (Kenny Wormald) moves to Bomont. Gradually after his arrival, the teens of the town begin to party in protest for their liberty.
Let’s get it out of the way: FOOTLOOSE is a very flawed film. The story is great, but it seemed to be failed by its God-awful script. I laughed out loud at lines so contextually funny (i.e. “There will be no public displays of dancing…”). There’s quite a few scenes and dialogue tags that make this seem unrealistic yet predictable. Again, the story is unique, but the screenplay seems to make this seem so familiar. Moreover, some aspects are unquestionably bad. The big standout is Dennis Quaid. His performance is so commonplace, and on top of that, every one of the sermons he gives throughout the film seems utterly contrived and difficult to believe.
“He is testing us. Our Lord is testing us.” –Dennis Quaid as Rev. Shaw Moore
There are some bright spots abundant in this dramusicomedy (in hopes of that being a word). To be more literal, there was the lavish cinematography that finds enjoyment in highlighting bright colors such as yellow and electric blue. Possibly the peak of it all is the choreography. These dance scenes are magnificent. Not to mention, the revival of the original soundtrack. Those songs came out in 1984, but up-and-coming artists, who perform mainly in the country and pop genres, make it feel brand new.
FOOTLOOSE isn’t a significantly bad film. It isn’t particularly great, either. It has its flaws and it has its moments. There was one sequence that truly stuck out to me, which depicted a heated argument between Ariel and her father. I think it actually brought a few tears to my eyes. Wishing I was as I watched this for more emotionally brilliant, well constructed scenes like that one, but it just never happened. Still, this was a good amount of fun. To anyone who wants their toes tapping for two hours, this is certainly for you.