Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yes, Really with Wilde.Dash #1: Footloose

Believe it or not, for someone totally obsessed with movies, I do a lot of selective editing, snubbing, and ignoring. That is to say: there are a whole lot of well-known movies I've actually never bothered to watch. I've spent a lot of time hunting down obscurities and not quite as much time seeing the movies you've probably been watching since you were 10 years old (for example: I just decided maybe I should watch Saving Private Ryan like last winter). Because of this, in conversation I frequently have this interaction. Me: "I've never actually seen that movie" You: "What? I've seen a movie you haven't?" Me: "Yes" You: "How have you not seen that movie?" Me: "I never wanted to" You: "Really?" Me: "Yes, really." Thus: Yes, Really with Wilde.Dash a weekly (I'm going to try, I swear...) feature in which I fill in my pop culture education, watch all the boring basics, and let you know whether or not I decided they were worth my time. Get it? Got it? Good.
See? I told you. You're doing it right now. You're looking at the Footloose poster and thinking "she can't be serious, Footloose? Everybody's seen that damn movie!" Let me assure you, though, until last night, the most I'd ever seen of the 1984 Kevin Bacon film were the snippets of television re-airs in between flicking through channels. Here’s the thing, right? I always knew the general idea behind Footloose. Teenagers in a place where they aren’t allowed to dance. Dancing is not allowed. That’s what I knew. That’s also why I never really wanted to see the film. How bland, I thought, a whole movie that’ll be all build up to an underwhelming 80’s dance scene. Turns out I was a little fuzzy on the details. See, for some reason it seems that I’ve confused the plot of Footloose with that of another 80’s film I’ve never seen: Witness. I thought Kevin Bacon’s character was a teenager who, like, swept down and caused chaos in an Amish village. It just made sense to me. I couldn’t conceive of a place where something as simple as dancing wouldn’t be allowed other than in a place of extreme religious conviction. Man, was I disappointed when I found out that the reason dancing wasn’t allowed wasn’t because the whole town wasn’t Amish, it was just because they were stupid and easily susceptible to politico brainwashing. I mean, really? The plot of Footloose is based around the premise that in America whole towns can be swayed to ban loud music and dancing because one time a few kids accidentally drove off a bridge? Right. Because the logical course of action when dealing with a drunk driving incident is to be like kids, guess what, dancing is the devil! No one was dancing while driving. Dancing is not the culprit. Yet, no one questions it. No one’s like ‘let’s stop selling alcohol in the town’ or ‘let’s get some cops out monitoring the bridge’. No, instead they decide that dancing is indeed sinful and that books like Slaughterhouse Five are no good either. If this movie had been a dystopian science fiction picture with large-scale implications, I would have been cool with it. It’s not, though. You know that. You’ve seen it.

This is not Ren's bad boy face. This is the face of a man who's worried about the mess that could result from having a nutjob on the back of his motorbike.

Of course, the preacher who makes these proclamations (John Lithgow) has an unruly, possibly manic daughter named Ariel (Lori Singer) with a figure like Waldo and some serious confusion as to what constitutes simple rebellion and what constitutes insanity. Lovably quirky? No. This girl is a class A nutbag. In our first impression of her, she’s balancing between two moving cars headed straight towards an oncoming semi. The only reason she’s not killed then and there? Well, someone else pulls her into a car and runs off the road. Yeah. Seems like outlawing dancing doesn’t prevent teenage idiocy. The other ten kinds of crazy? Well, I mean, she’s dating a dangerous moron. She provokes a dangerous moron. She nearly allows herself to be hit by a train. Literally, this girl doesn’t know her limits. It’s like if Kevin Bacon and Sarah Jessica Parker weren’t there to pull her out of harm’s way, she’d just let herself get killed. You know, just because. I didn’t know if I was supposed to like her, but I definitely did not. I mean, seriously, the girl is about as dense as they come. Ariel is really close to most unlikeable 80’s heroine ever. I was totally bummed when I realized she was actually supposed to be the love interest for Kevin Bacon's character Ren. I don’t even like Kevin Bacon, but Ren was totally too good for her. I mean, I’m pretty sure that girl was originally written in as a martyr. She was unstable, she was supposed to be the next teenage statistic in that town and the example as to why things needed to turn around in the backwards town, but midway through production, someone decided that the ending just wasn’t going to bring the teens in (or, that it would just be Saturday Night Fever out in the mountains?). Ta da! She’s dancing it up with the Bacon, throwing glitter into the sky and taking down chumps. Speaking of which, throwing glitter into the sky is a bad idea. When you throw glitter into the air it comes back down. Then it gets stuck in your eye. I shouldn't have to tell you that glitter is frequently made of little pieces of glass or plastic. Throwing glitter and then throwing your head back wide-eyed is like asking for a corneal abrasion. Also, how can you prove the merits of dancing if the day you have your dance you decide to beat up like 3 or 4 interfering dudes? Couldn’t you just get some parents to chaperon or keep the cops around to prevent some random acts of terrorism? That way, you know, no one goes home with a black eye and no one’s mom goes running back to the parish yelling about how her darling Chucky got punched out by those rowdy dance punks.
Glitter in the sky is dangerous. Avoid throwing it.

Kevin Bacon, too, is just so lame. He can dance well enough, but I can honestly say I appreciated the absurdity of Zac Efron’s copycat dance sequence in HSM3 far more. I mean, have you seen Kevin Bacon? Maybe its me, but he has one of those faces that’s just plain irritating. Here he’s got feathered hair and a John Travolta strut. He’s peacocking around doing gymnastics and getting himself into trouble. Bricks are being thrown into his window and he still doesn’t know when to quit. Hooligan. It’s too bad the remake of this film got canceled. If you iron out a few of the logical kinks this film could have been guiltless fun. Instead, though, like Dirty Dancing, I think it takes itself too seriously (yes, I have seen Dirty Dancing. Yes, I really do hate it) and stars an unattractive man who looks far older than he's supposed to be. Remember that line in the LFO bad pop anthem "Summer Girls" that goes "I like Kevin Bacon but I hate Footloose"? That's not how I feel. I think I feel more like "I feel sort of comfortably ambivalent about Footloose but I generally find Kevin Bacon to be the equivalent of a piece of scenery". Honestly, an intense scene devoted to searching the scriptures for instances of dancing?


Flight of the Conchords angry dance. Complete with montage flashbacks.


High School Musical angry dance. So much angst.

3 comments:

  1. Don't you dare. Don't you freaking dare, to put Dirty Dancing in with this movie. It's not fair. I frown at you sir, I frown.

    ReplyDelete
  2. M, I'm sure you know that I hold Dirty Dancing in very low esteem...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting. I got it very interesting. As far as movie is concerned the movie features some good dancing -- not nearly enough, however -- and a fine, understated performance by Lithgow in a role that might easily lend itself to caricature.

    sonia

    ReplyDelete

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