Footloose: Still Worth Kicking Off your Sunday Shoes

Even after 40 years, it’s still worth cutting Loose.

For those who have forgotten, Footloose tells the story of Ren McCormick (Kevin Bacon), a young city-boy whose family moves to a highly conservative small town in the the American Mid-west. Soon after arriving, Ren falls hard for Ariel (Lori Singer), the minister’s daughter who hides her wild side from her father. As their relationship begins to develop, Ren discovers that the town has banned dancing out of concern that it may lead to other social problems. With his love of music and dance leading the way, Ren sets out to free the youth of this small town from their oppressive leaders and maybe find love in the process.

Directed by Herbert Ross, Footloose is a true 80s classic. Featuring a cast of soon-to-be stars such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Chris Penn, Singer and, of course, Bacon, this simple film still manages to pop onscreen. Tightly written and focused, the story rarely detours, even with its emphasis on dance routines and musical montages. (Ah, I yearn for the days when a montage would fix all one’s problems…) Featuring a new 4K transfer on the eve of its 40th Anniversary, the film has never looked better on disc, with the dry rural environments and lush green landscapes truly coming to life.

And, of course, that soundtrack still plays.

Between Top Gun and Footloose, Loggins’ name has become synonymous with 1980s soundtracks. These songs actually work to bring the film to life and almost feel like a character in and of themselves. Footloose is one of those rare instances where every tune works well to accentuate the story and that magic sounds great in the new transfer. (And, for what it’s worth, the soundtrack had two songs nominated for Best Song at the Oscars that year in ‘Let’s Hear it for the Boy’ and the title track itself.)

What’s more, the new edition features two solid commentaries: one from producers Craig Zadan and Dean Pitchford and one from Bacon himself. In addition to Bacon’s screen tests, costumes and deep dive into the modern musical. This is truly an anniversary edition that is done with care. Honestly, more anniversary editions could learn from the work done here.

What’s most surprising about Footloose though is how relevant it still feels. Although four decades have passed since its release, Ren’s battle for freedom still connects deeply with the heart of a culture that values self-expression and freedom. For Ren, dancing isn’t about tearing down the establishment. Instead, it’s about celebration and vitality that connects with who he is.

For Ren, to dance is to be himself at his most pure.

However, the small community where they live is a place built upon fear. Having dealt with the trauma of loss before, the Reverend fights to control the next generation in in order to keep them safe. (Or, at least, that’s what he believes.) But the town leans into their anxiety, and things begin to spiral.

Although the setting seems ridiculous today (and, for the record, the film was loosely based on a true story), all of these qualities feel like they could have been ripped from the headlines today. Once again, we find ourselves in the midst of a generation crying out to be heard. Once again, we find ourselves in a time when the ‘powers that be’ are scared to see change. (Although, to be fair, this generation would likely be taking to the streets over issues such as social justice, gender equity and sexual identity, rather than dancing.) Even so, there’s something actually timeless about this simple tale of teen angst and dancing (angst-cing?) that continues to stir up the soul.

So yes, even after all this time, Footloose remains as fun and inspiring as it did all those years ago. Wildly entertaining, there’s such a joy embedded in this film that one still can’t help but kick off those Sunday shoes.

Footloose: the 40th Anniversary Edition is available in 4K and Blu-ray on Tuesday, February 13, 2024.

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