According to the folks behind yet another Hollywood remake—this one of the 1984 teenage dance movie that made Kevin Bacon a star—it's time once again to "kick off your Sunday shoes" and get "Footloose" (Paramount).
Despite lively direction from Craig Brewer ("Hustle and Flow," "Black Snake Moan") and some spirited toe-tapping dance sequences, "Footloose" retains—and ramps up—the problematic message of the original. Namely, that teenagers must disobey their parents, break all the rules and follow their dreams, no matter the consequences.
It has been three years since a tragic car crash claimed the lives of five high school seniors in the small Southern town of Bomont. The teens had been drinking, doing drugs and engaging in some very dirty dancing.
One victim's father, local Presbyterian minister Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid), spearheads legislation to ban public dancing and "lasciviousness" and impose an 11 p.m. curfew for all under the age of 18. The goal is to counter the "spiritual corruption" stemming from such "lewd behavior."
Sounds perfectly reasonable. But teens will be teens, and Rev. Moore's daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough) supports an underground rebellion, engaging in as much illicit drinking, sexual activity and dancing as possible, all to such inspirational tunes as "Hey Mister, Won't You Sell Me a Fake ID?"
The only thing this movement needs to reach its tipping point is a charismatic leader.
Enter Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald), a Yankee from Boston who comes to live with his Bomont cousins after his mother's death. With his styled hair, sunglasses, white T-shirt and perpetual pout, Ren puts on his best James Dean imitation. But this rebel has a cause: to flout Bomont's rules and rally his fellow teens to open defiance.
"We don't have much time left," Ren tells the City Council. "Our job as teens is to live, to play our music, to act like idiots." He uses the Bible to challenge Rev. Moore, noting that David celebrated his love of God by dancing.
"Footloose" works hard to ridicule organized religion, which is portrayed as nothing more than a bunch of restrictive rules. The entire town gangs up on the good clergyman, including his normally supportive wife Vi (Andie MacDowell). Nonetheless, Rev. Moore is a sympathetic figure, saying, "I only want what every parent wants—for my kids to come home safe."
The movie's skewed morality includes a "happy ending" according to its own rules: Parents, leave your kids alone, let them be destructive, trust them to make mistakes—and then (and only then) will they return your love.
The film contains a negative portrayal of religion; acceptance of teenage drinking, drug use, sexual activity and reckless driving; a brutal assault; and a few instances of crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.
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